Students in the Richfield School District exhibited little change in their collective performance on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests this past spring.
In results released this month by the Minnesota Department of Education, about 42 percent of Richfield students who took the standardized tests met or exceeded the proficiency threshold in math, down from about 45 percent in 2016. In reading, about 43 percent of test-takers were measured as at least proficient, equaling the results from the previous year.
In the lack of contrast from 2016 to 2017, Richfield’s figures mirrored statewide results, which showed reading and math proficiency both staying around 60 percent. Students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the MCA math test. The reading test was administered to grades 3-8 and 10.
Still lagging behind the state average, Richfield’s stagnant scores come during a time of transition in the district, according to Assistant Superintendent Leadriane Roby.
“The last two years, what we’ve really been intentional about is looking at our instructional practices in the district,” Roby said.
That has included an emphasis on “professional learning communities” data sharing between teachers and efforts to align teaching practices to state standards, she said.
And now, the district is exploring its curriculum, “to see where we have holes, and where it’s not aligned to state standards, and where it’s not necessarily reflective of the cultures in our school,” Roby added.
She acknowledged that the district’s work didn’t show up in the latest round of overall MCA scores.
“Although our growth has not necessarily reflected some of the work that we’re doing, we are on the right track,” Roby said.
In particular, she pointed to local assessments that have shown overall growth for students between fall and spring.
Plus, standardized test scores “are just one part of the picture to understand how students are doing in Minnesota,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “It’s frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there’s more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test.”
Roby did, however, point to some MCA highlights within specific groups of students. At the eighth-grade level, scores of proficient or better increased by about 6 percentage points, from 40 percent to 46 percent. At Richfield Dual Language School, the percentage of third-graders testing as at least proficient increased from 28 percent to 34 percent.
The greatest improvement noted by Roby came at Richfield High School, where 37 percent of 11th-graders tested as proficient or better in math, an uptick of 10 percentage points from last year.
At the same time, in the district’s endeavor to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, there was little change in MCA results.
In math, the ratio of Latino students testing as proficient or better dropped by 2 percentage points. For black students, the drop in math proficiency was 5 points.
Latino students demonstrated a collective improvement in reading by about 1 percentage point, compared to a 1-point decline for black students.
Richfield administrators are keeping their eyes on the big picture.
“We certainly will be excited about great growth in one year’s time, but also, we want sustainable growth,” Roby said.
In keeping with the message that test scores don’t tell the whole story about what students are learning, the Minnesota Department of Education is proposing goals to close the achievement gap – with plans “that extend beyond just looking at the individual test scores we’re looking at today,” Cassellius said.
As a replacement for the department of education’s old Multiple Measurement Ratings, which aimed to identify schools in need of improvement and prescribe actions plans for those schools, the state has created a new draft plan in accordance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The plan evaluates schools in five areas: student achievement on tests, academic progress over time, graduation rates, progress toward English proficiency and consistent attendance. The department of education plans to institute the new program for the 2018-19 school year.
Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @RISunCurrent.