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MCA results lower than desired

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Pine River-Backus School’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) scores are often lower than state standards, though 2013 results correlate closely with scores in schools with comparable free and reduced lunch numbers.

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“It’s frustrating because there are so many things that went wrong. The window was shifted and changed. The system went down while the kids were taking the test,” said PR-B Superintendent Cathy Bettino.

The 2013 MCA III results in math, science, reading and writing were recently released. In most cases, PR-B had fewer proficient students than the average for schools in the state. But PR-B, with 62.3 percent of students on free and reduced lunch, scored higher in some subjects than other schools with a similar number of students benefiting from free and reduced lunches.

For example, PR-B grade 3 students on free and reduced lunch had 76.3 percent proficiency in math, compared to a state average of 53.8 percent. Grade 7 students on free or reduced lunch scored 40.7 percent on reading compared to a state average of 33.7 percent.

“There’s two indicators of student success in school. The first is parent involvement, and the second is economics,” Bettino said.

PR-B’s proficiency among these students shows that efforts in past years to improve scores among students with free and reduced lunch have been successful.

“It, to me, tells me we’ve done some good work in targeting free and reduced lunches, but we need to look more deeply at the overall population,” Bettino said.

Past MCA II test scores showed higher proficiency among PR-B students, but the reason for changes between 2012 and 2013 proficiencies are unclear because the MCA II and MCA III tests focused on different curriculum.

“MCA II are based on Minnesota Academic Standards, and MCA III are based on the newly adopted Minnesota Standards, which include common core,” Bettino said. “They’re two different tests testing two different things so you don’t want to compare those.”

It is possible that PR-B student curriculum may not be aligned with MCA III curriculum.

To improve scores for the coming year there will be “data retreats” to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses of student test scores and to better align curriculum with the new MCA III tests.

“Our kids worked real hard, and our staff worked real hard, and we’ll see what this really means,” Bettino said.

Following are PR-B results compared to the state average:

• Third grade: 47.5 percent proficiency in reading, 76.3 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 57.2 percent in reading and 71.5 percent in math.

• Fourth grade: 42.9 percent proficiency in reading, 63.5 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 54 percent in reading and 71.2 percent in math.

• Fifth grade: 39.2 percent proficiency in reading, 42.3 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 63.8 percent in reading and 60 percent in math.

• Sixth grade: 40.7 percent proficiency in reading, 40.4 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 59.3 percent in reading and 57 percent in math.

• Seventh grade: 45.8 percent proficiency in reading, 41.4 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 54 percent in reading and 54.1 percent in math.

• Eighth grade: 41.4 percent proficiency in reading, 35.1 percent proficiency in math. This compares to the state average of 54.1 percent in reading and 58.9 percent in math.

• 10th grade: 63.5 percent proficiency in reading compared to the state average of 62.5 percent.

• 11th grade: 66.7 percent proficiency in math compared to the state average of 66.4 percent.

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