The district’s new testing coordinator, Jonah Barton, gave a State of the District presentation at last Monday evening’s board meeting, in which he dove into details on how the St. Michael-Albertville school district performed on their 2017 MCA-III exams, the ACT test and Advanced Placement exams.
The STMA district has climbed to new heights at a brisk pace when it comes to these standardized testing benchmarks, and this year they hit a milestone of all three tested subjects ranking above the top 10 percentiles in the state. Just four years ago, STMA’s averages ranked at 22 percent in the state for reading, 15 percent for math and 13 percent for science. Those numbers have improved markedly, with the current rankings at 8.39 percent in the state for reading, 6.09 percent for math and 5.3 percent for science.
2017 is also the first year the district didn’t have a single exam average score higher than the 15 percentile, and only two exams (grades 5 and 6 reading) scored between the 10-14 percentiles. All other exams averages were in the top 10 percentile in the state. Standout results included grade 8 science, scoring in the 1.12 percentile, grade 11 math at 3.6 percentile, grade 4 math at 4.6 percentile and grade 8 math at 4.7 percentile. Nine other exams averaged between the 5 and 8.7 percentiles in the state.
“Our fifth-grade assessment is based on things students learned in fourth grade and third grade,” Barton said. “And that goes for all of these. It’s a collaborative effort among all grade levels.”
Barton noted that STMA had every exam but one increase in proficiency over last year. In comparison, the state of Minnesota had just one exam increase their proficiency percentage last year, which was grade 11 math. The state average score increased by 2.2 percent for this exam, while STMA’s grade 11 math score increased by 7.2 percent.
Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said it makes sense that STMA students perform exceedingly well on the MCAs since the district’s curriculum tightly aligns with state standards, and the MCA exam tests students’ knowledge of those standards.
The state of Minnesota always ranks among the very highest in the nation when it comes to K-12 education, and the state also ranks as number one in the nation for its ACT scores, which all Minnesota students now take their junior year of high school. The exam tests proficiency in reading, English, math and science.
STMA’s 2017 ACT scores exceeded Minnesota’s top-in-the-nation average composite score, 23.1 to the state’s 21.5. The district rebounded almost a full point since last year, which was their first year that every student took the exam. Only college-bound students took the exam before last year, and STMA had average composite scores as high as 24.1 before that change.
The ACT test mirrored the district’s MCA III exams, with the district having its most noticeable success in science and math over reading/English. STMA’s average reading and English scores were 22.4 and 22.5, while science and math averages were each a point higher.
Barton said they were not concerned with this because the district’s reading scores improved more than their math or science scores since 2013, even though they continue to be closest to the state averages. Additionally, he said state reading scores have improved while their science and math scores decreased, so the achievement gap between the state and STMA math and science looks even wider.
STMA High School has seen a surge in popularity in its Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings, with 274 students now participating in AP courses, an increase of 20 percent over last year alone and over 50 percent increase since 2012.
Students in AP courses can choose to take an exam at the end of their course, and they can use the course toward college credit if they receive a score of 3, 4 or 5. STMA students scored a 3 or above 77.6 percent of the time in 2017, compared with 67 percent statewide and 58.1 percent globally.