The St. Michael-Albertville school board got an update last week on how STMA students performed on last spring’s assessments. The results showed more of a mixed bag than STMA is accustomed to, but at the same time, the scores still rank far above state averages and still put the district’s average scores at the top 10 percentile in the state. Here’s some specifics:
Jonah Barton, the district’s assessment coordinator, said the 2018 math scores were lower than 2017 in five of the seven grades who take a MCA math test. Grade 11 saw the sharpest drop at 5.5 percent lower proficiency than the previous year, while grade 7 performed the best over last year at 2.5 percent higher. Districtwide, 77 percent of students achieved proficiency on the math test, down from 78.8 percent in 2017. However, 2018’s overall proficiency numbers were quite close to 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The MCA reading test scores from 2018 were more of a mixed bag. Two grades’ reading scores showed substantial gains over last year, with reading proficiency at an all-time high for grades 3 and 6. The other end of the spectrum is grade 10, which saw 11.5 percent lower proficiency over last year. Grade 4 also saw a substantial drop in reading scores, while grades 5, 7 and 8 stayed pretty consistent to the year before. Overall, the district went down nearly 2 percentage points in their reading proficiency over last year, though their proficiency level of 74.5 percent still exceeds that of 2014-2016.
The science test, which is only given in grades 5, 8 and 10, saw the sharpest declines. Every grade declined in their proficiency, with grade 5 at 2.7 percent below last year, grade 8 over 7 points under last year and grade 10 nearly 13 percentage points below last year’s proficiency levels. Districtwide, the science scores showed 69.1 percent proficiency, 8 points below last year and also lower than 2015 and 2016.
“With every trend line there’s going to be peaks and there’s going to be valleys,” Barton said. “We want to pull out the peaks and take a closer look at any of those valleys.”
Some of the highlights Barton pulled out included the 8th grade math score, which was bested by only 12 school districts in the state and 3rd grade reading, where there were only 11 districts more proficient than STMA.
“Four of those districts had less than 20 students that they tested,” Barton added. “There were some really small districts that perform well.”
Despite some sliding scores, STMA students tested in the top 10 percent of all Minnesota districts in every test besides reading in grades 5 and 7, which were not far behind, and grade 10 reading, which fared the worst of all the standardized tests in the 38th percentile. The science scores, despite the more dramatic declines, all remain extremely high in the state rankings.
District and Board Response to the Scores
Board member Gayle Weber wondered how the district would address these declines, some of which she called ‘fairly significant.’ Teri Johnson, director of teaching and learning, said the individual schools will determine which areas of concern they have, and they will work with the curriculum department to see where they can shore up gaps in the curriculum or make improvements in other areas. Barton said meetings have already begun with principals to create action plans and identify which areas to target.
“Our teachers are strong and they use their data,” Johnson said. “They’ll absolutely dive into their students’ longitudinal data. We’re doing a lot of wonderful things, but when there’s room for improvement we’re going to get in there and support our teachers and work with them to move those students forward in their achievement.”
“We are doing well, but we want to continuously improve,” added Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault. “Like a former board member used to say, we don’t want to rest on our laurels.
We’ll have written plans in place for those target grade levels, and I’ll be sharing that progress with you,” she said. “We are taking it very seriously.”
“It’s just one snapshot in time,” board member Hollee Saville said. “I think overall our district does a really good job.”