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2013 testing season is here

As all good Minnesotans know, we have hunting, trapping and angling seasons.

Bows, snares, rods or rifles, we all know when the opener is scheduled and we’re ready with licenses, permits, gear and equipment. We even celebrate and congratulate each other depending on the bounty.

Minnesota public schools participate in another state-designated “season.” We call it testing season! And while the equipment and processes are far different — some would argue not as much fun — we still have multiple rules, guidelines and parameters.

We are fortunate here at Pine River-Backus to see results that show continued improvement.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) affirms that testing is used to measure student achievement.

“State tests are given to students in a district once a year, based on their grade level and subject area. Classroom tests are given by individual teachers on a more regular basis and may include quizzes, mid-terms, chapter tests and final exams. Both types of tests give educators an idea of how well their students are learning,” according to the MDE.

Today, both types of test not only measure student growth and proficiency, but the results also drive the teacher’s future instruction and individualized interventions.

MDE further clarifies that the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) and alternate assessments MCA-Modified and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) are the state tests that help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards and also meet the requirements for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the federal program formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

MDE has developed the MCA from a proficiency test to one that also measures student growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. This result is called the Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR).

It reflects performance in four areas: proficiency in reading and math, student growth from year-to-year, higher levels of growth in groups of students that are father behind, and progress in improving high school graduation rates.

High stakes tests are tests our students have to pass at a certain level in order to graduate. MDE calls them GRAD Tests. These tests measure essential skills in writing, reading and math.

Students who don’t pass on the first attempt can retest. (I’ve linked several parent fact sheets to the Pine River-Backus Schools website. If you’d like more information, go to

At Pine River-Backus, our accountability plan calls for other assessment opportunities. The accompanying chart shows the many opportunities available and indicates purposes.

We administer the MCAs from mid-April through mid-May, hence testing season. Teachers and support staff create testing environments that are comfortable, familiar and conducive to success.

At our elementary school, students will be “ROARING” to get the job done. Students know the importance of preparation and are Responsible, On-Task, Always Safe, and Respectful.

At the high school, teachers ensure students are prepared and they also create a comfortable and rewarding test taking environment, allowing for schedule changes as needed.

Parents and families can help, too. Consider these ideas when getting your student ready for testing season:

• Make sure your student is getting plenty of rest.

• Make sure your student has eaten. School breakfasts and lunch are great.

• Let you student know to do his/her best, but the test is the test, not a reflection of who he/she is.

• Peppermint candies. “Science has proven that sucking on a peppermint soothes a nervous stomach and stimulates thinking.”

So, good hunting; fill your tags; bag the limit; catch and release … and do your best, PR-B students, as we take on the 2013 testing season!

(Cathy Bettino is superintendent of the Pine River-Backus School District.)

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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