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Causes to Celebrate: Making Sense of Data

date 09/09/2019 author Sue Chase category Uncategorized

Imagine, if you will, most children across the State of Minnesota -- as young as third grade --sitting in front of a computer screen, reading questions, answering, solving math equations, or interpreting a science experiment’s results. If you have a child in school, this is  likely a scene with which you are familiar. Students take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) in reading, math and science, every spring. And schools get the results officially, towards the end of August. Schools get individual student results that are shared with parents, and districts get information about how their whole student body, as well as various smaller populations  ‘measures up’ in terms of proficiency and growth. Comparisons can be made between state results and local results, as well as changes from year to year, locally. The results are released to the media and the public at large.


Achievement is measured against the standards for each subject area (Reading, Math and Science) that are to be taught  at each grade level. The content becomes more difficult each year, and in the case of science, students are only tested in grades 5, 8 and 11, so they are often covering 3 years worth of concepts in a test.  With the math test, children are expected to understand algebraic concepts as early as 5th grade! Reading also becomes incrementally more difficult, with students having to interpret themes of literature as early as grade 5.  There are four categories assigned: Exceeds, Proficient, Partially Proficient and Does Not Meet. The North Star Report, released by the state, includes information about changes in student achievement -- moving from one level to another. 


So, what does this all mean for Fosston ISD 601?  The results from the Spring 2019 MCA tests give us something to celebrate. In all of the tested areas, our children showed levels of proficiency that were above the state average.  In math, 60.5% of Fosston students tested were proficient (meaning they met or exceeded expectations)-- the state average was 55%. In reading, 66.2% of Fosston’s students tested were proficient -- state average was 59.2%. And in science, 57.6% of Fosston’s students tested were proficient -- state average was 50.7%.  This tells us instructional practices at ISD 601 are above state averages. 


We also look at results from specific groups within our school population, to make sure that we are addressing achievement gaps and that all students are showing growth.  Those groups include students eligible for free and reduced lunch, American Indian students, students whose first language is not English, etc. Again, when comparing the results for ISD 601 students to state averages, we are doing better than the state. And more importantly,our students are performing better this year than they did last. We see percentage point gains in the exceeds, meets and partially meets categories -- and smaller percentages of students in the “does not meet” categories.  


Included in the states “North Star Report” is a breakdown of graduation rates (usually a year behind). At 98.3% for  2018 (4 year rate), Fosston Public Schools is ahead of the state rate (83.2%). Additionally, our graduation rates for students eligible for free and reduced price lunches, and our graduation rates for our American Indian students are  above state average. This same report includes data on consistent attendance - the percentage of students who attend school 90% of the time. At Fosston Public Schools, 83.65% of students maintain consistent attendance. 


MCA tests function as a “systems check” to make sure districts are teaching to the standards in a systematic way, that is equitable. These tests are a snapshot in time, and we know we cannot measure the success of a school on one result.  However, this snapshot, when combined with other data points, and taken over time to examine trends, allows staff at ISD 601 to measure the success of programming. This data will be reviewed by teaching staff and administration, and from this information, teachers will set SMART goals to keep us always moving forward.    


Watch for more information about how ISD 601 is doing to reach its goals when the World’s Best Workforce report is made public.

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