Students do well on state assessment tests

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 6/30/98.

The Paynesville third and fifth grade students scored above the state average in most areas tested, according to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments test results.

In February and March, the tests were given for the first time to all public school students in the third and fifth grades.

ďThe tests were an assessment of the curriculum and not the individual students,Ē Danith Clausen, curriculum coordinator, said. ďThe assessment will help us build our curriculum in areas where test scores were lower to help us grow and be successful with the standards,Ē she added.

Results of the tests were released on June 11. See charts for test results.

ďI was impressed with the scores,Ē she added. The purpose of the tests was to generate information for school improvement and school accountability. A lot of factors were taken into consideration, including students with learning disabilities, students on free and reduced lunch program, and the number of students who moved into the district after Jan. 1.

The third grade students were tested in math and reading while the fifth graders also had a writing section included with their tests.

The math test included such areas as shape and space, measurement, number sense, chance and data, problem solving, and procedures and concepts.

According to the Children and Family Learning Department, test scores showed nearly 40 percent of the stateís public school third and fifth graders are already on track for successful achievement of Minnesotaís new graduation standards even though schools will not fully implement the standards until next fall. Most of the other students who tested demonstrated evidence of some of the skills necessary for successful achievement of high standards.

ďThe Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) measure studentsí achievement toward the high standards component of the graduation standards and allow parents, schools and communities to know how Minnesota students are doing. We believe that every child counts and can improve academically if given the chance to succeed,Ē Governor Arne Carlson said. ďOur graduation standards together with statewide testing will give every public school student in Minnesota that chance.Ē

ďUnlike the eighth grade test that measures basic literacy skills, the MCA is broader and more rigorous. It is meant to challenge students,Ē Kate Foate Trewick, assistant commissioner of teaching and learning, said. ďSome students proved they are ready for anything; the scores from others serve as an indicator that we need to take a look at how we are teaching and how students are learning.Ē

In the reading portion of the test, students had to read short stories and poems. They also had to distinguish facts from opinions, and read excerpts from grade level textbooks. They had to identify the main ideas, retell events and/or draw conclusions.

The math portion of the test was divided into different concept areas such as measurement, problem solving, and probability. Students had to measure distance and estimate the time it takes to get from one location to another, estimate the length of a line, and do calculations. Students were asked to do things like divide a candy bar among four friends and explain how they did it or take a given amount of money and figure out what they could afford to order from a menu.

The MCA scores are scale scores that are similar to the scoring system used on the American College Test or Scholastic Aptitude Test. The scoring system used was developed by Minnesota teachers and testing experts.

A scale score is not a percent or total correct score; it is a score that represents the number of points earned on the test. The third and fifth grade math tests had a possible total of 180 points while the reading had 170 points and writing 88 points.

Students taking the test were placed in four different achievement levels:
Level 1: Students at this level demonstrated evidence of limited knowledge and skills.
Level 2: Students at this level demonstrated evidence of partial knowledge and skills.
Level 3: Students at this level demonstrated evidence of solid academic performance.
Level 4: Students at this level demonstrated evidence of advanced academic performance.

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