District pleased with test results

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 5/3/00.

Paynesville school officials are happy with the scores for the basic standards test which the eighth grade students took in early February.

According to Danith Clausen, district curriculum coordinator, 113 students took the test and 80 percent passed the reading portion and 73 percent passed the math.

The statewide average for passing was 80 percent in reading and 71 percent in math.

"We are really happy with the reading scores," said Deb Gillman, middle school principal. Paynesville's reading percentage has risen from 60 percent to 80 percent this year. "I would like to see everything scored in the 80 percent range," she added.

Communications teachers at the middle school have been including nonfiction stories as part of their class assignments as the tests deal with nonfiction stories.

The middle school students received practice tests a week or two before the the test dates. The practice tests took away some of the anxiety of test day.

"These are high stakes tests which the students know they need to pass to get their diplomas," Clausen said.

The test questions also require literal and inferential comprehension. The literal items require a student to choose or compose an answer that is explicitly stated in the text. The inference requires the students to draw understanding from the text.

The math test is all multiple choice. The test deals with problem solving, estimations, measurements, tables and graphs, and shapes and space.

The high school students who hadn't passed the tests also took them in February. In the high school, there are still 39 students who need to pass the math test and 23 needing to pass the reading test.

Only one senior needs to pass the math test. Out of 105 juniors, five juniors need to pass the reading test and five math. Of 125 sophomores, 11 need to pass the math test and only five the reading. Of 109 freshmen, 20 need to pass math and 12 need to retake reading.

A refresher class was offered to the high school students in January prior to the testing to give them more experience. "High school math doesn't drill on specifics like the middle school math course," Clausen said. "A number of teachers coached and mentored high school students before the test dates," she added.

Gillman said she is checking with other schools who scored in the 80s and 90s to see how they prepare their students test.

New scoring
This year the passing scores look different on the basics standards test reports. For seniors, the passing score is 590 or above for reading and mathematics. For eighth through 11th graders, the score is 600 and above.

Clausen said the scores are equivalent to 75 percent.

The new scoring system takes the slight variations and difficulty levels of the test from year to year into consid-eration.

"This year's math test was viewed as slightly more difficult," Gillman said. "We had five or six students pass at 600. If the scoring had remained the same as last year, they would not have passed the test."

According to Clausen, the state feels the new scoring is more accurate and a fair way to determine passing scores on graduation tests.

The passing score on the test represents the minimum acceptable level of skill the state of Minnesota expects of high school graduates in reading and mathematics.

All the Paynesville students take the same test. Special needs students have not been given separate tests. They are tested each year until they have shown they have made sufficient progress and deemed they are at their maximum level.

"I'm excited that all of our special needs students have passed the state tests," Clausen said. If a student does not pass the state test, and the student's individual education plan indicates the student has done appropriate work, their test score will read: passed at individual level. If they pass the state test, their papers will read: passed at state level.

Clausen said many students struggle to pass the test. "We encourage all the students to take it slow and focus on the test. They are allowed to take all the time they want," she said. There is no defined time period in which to complete the tests.

Test results were mailed to parents this week. If you do not receive the test results by the end of the week, contact the middle school, 320-243-3724.

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