Albert Lea district sees declines in MCA test scores

Published 12:04 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

The Albert Lea school district, along with students across the state, saw significant declines in reading and math test scores after a year of disruptions and changes in learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The state on Friday released results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. 

“The statewide assessment results confirm what we already knew — that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our students’ learning and they need our help to recover,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller. 

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In Albert Lea, specifically, 38.5% of students did not meet standards on reading, compared to 31.5% in 2019. The data showed 8.2% exceeded standards, 31.5% met standards and 21.7% partially met standards. 

In math, the decrease was larger as 47.1% did not meet standards in the district, compared to 31.8% in 2019. According to the data, 7.3% exceeded standards, 22.7% met standards and 22.9% partially met standards. 

In science, 37.8% did not meet standards, compared to 38.1% in 2019, and 4.2% exceeded standards, 28.4% met standards and 29.6 partially met standards. 

The district stated in a press release the assessments are a snapshot of student learning of the Minnesota academic standards. This year there was also a difference in the number of students testing, with about 15 to 20% fewer students testing compared to previous years, depending on the grade level and content area of reading, math and science.

“Staff will view these scores as a barometer measure of where instructional needs are for this year,” the district said. “Teacher teams and administrators have met, and will continue to meet to address the needs of students, in an effort to keep moving all students forward in their learning.” 


Results for district schools

Some of the largest declines in the district were seen in math at the middle school and high school levels, with 57% of Albert Lea High School students not meeting standards in math, compared to 35.4% in 2019. 

At Southwest Middle School 58.1% of students did not meet standards, compared to 35.4% in 2019. 

The data showed 41.8% of Albert Lea High School students met or exceeded standards in reading, 21.8% partially met standards and 36.5% did not meet standards. About 35% did not meet standards in 2019. 

At the middle school in reading, 37.3% of students met or exceeded standards in reading, 22.9% partially met standards and 39.7% did not meet standards. In 2019 at the middle school, 51.9% met or exceeded standards. 

At the elementary level in math, 23.9% of students at Lakeview did not meet standards, along with 36.1% at Sibley, 43.4% at Hawthorne and 38.2% at Halverson.

In reading, 39.4% at Halverson did not meet standards, 45.7% at Hawthorne, 25.2% at Lakeview and 42.2% at Sibley.


Statewide results

Statewide results show proficiency rates fell 11 percentage points to 44% in math and 7 points to 53% in reading, since 2019.

The Trump administration let states cancel their spring 2020 tests as the pandemic began to take hold and schools transitioned to distance learning. This year, Minnesota largely tried to administer its tests as usual even though some school districts and states got partial waivers from the Biden administration.

About 77% of eligible Minnesota students completed their tests. That’s down from the usual 98%.

Stacey Gray Akyea, research director for St. Paul Public Schools, said the district’s low test participation rates cast doubt on how much they can learn from the data, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“We’re still doing some of those analyses to see if we can generalize across student groups,” she said.

Nonetheless, the district will be taking a close look at the results to understand “where students are now as we come into the fall,” she said, and “how far are they from where they normally would have been.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.