Spring is here and the majority of Pine River-Backus students are back to in-person learning.

This has been a challenging year for all of us. Parents becoming teachers, teachers and students shifting between asynchronous and synchronous learning models, and our communities learning to support each other through changing risks and evolving restrictions.

We all have had different experiences and felt the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic created. Even now we continue to struggle, grow and face those challenges together.

This spring, PR-B students will once again be taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, otherwise known as MCAs. The MCAs are used to assess achievement of the Minnesota Academic Standards in mathematics, reading and science and designed to be a snapshot of students' progress toward those standards.

While our students and staff have faced many challenges in learning and teaching this year, the Minnesota Department of Education believes it is important to assess the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on student learning and the education system.

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As we enter into the testing windows, MDE has applied for a waiver that would keep MCA testing intact but remove the accountability of the results from schools. The MCA tests would still provide insight of students' progress toward the academic standards, but would give more flexibility in the administration and accountability of the tests.

The waiver would allow for longer testing windows. The MCA and MTAS testing windows will be extended through Friday, May 21. The ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS have already been extended to April 16. The waiver also allows for more flexibility in scheduling and the requirement for administering makeup tests as appropriate for the situation.

PR-B plans to start state assessments in mid-April and continue to the end of the testing window.

At Pine RIver-Backus Schools, the MCAs will be given in-person and continue to follow the same security measures to assure the validity of the tests. We will continue to do our best to provide a safe and secure testing environment for our students and staff.

Families also have the right to refuse testing. Those who choose not to participate can complete the Parent/Guardian Refusal form from MDE and return it to the school.

If you are feeling adventurous or just want to experience some of what our students are learning and what is expected of them as it relates to state testing, I thought it might be fun for you to try some of the MCA item samplers. Sample tests can be found on the Pearson Access Next website at http://minnesota.pearsonaccessnext.com/item-samplers.

As we often hear, it takes a village to raise a child, and each experience we share with them can be important to how they relate to the world around them. So try one of the MCA item samplers with your family today and help them prepare for tomorrow.

You can find sample test questions related to math, reading and science for grade 3-11. While these item samplers will not predict how you or your students will perform on the MCA tests, they give you an idea of the types of questions and format of the tests given.

Pearson website also offers several resources for your students to prepare the MCAs, as well as links to the “Perspective for Families” site that provides resources specific to your child based on their previous MCA scores and learning locator code.

If you have questions or concerns involving district testing, you can contact Troy Gregory by email at tgergory@prbschools.org or call 218-587-8323.

A planned assessment calendar is posted on the district website. Please note these dates may change as we are working with an evolving schedule and changing circumstances.

Thank you for your time and support.

Troy Gregory is Pine River-Backus School District assessment coordinator.