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District test results show ups, downs

School District 833 students continue to score above the state average on standardized exams, according to the recently released Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results.

South Washington County School District students have scored above the state average since the testing began in 2000. This year's tests were taken in April.

Traditionally high-performing elementary schools such as Liberty Ridge, Red Rock, Royal Oaks and Bailey continue to score at or above 80th percentile in math and reading.

Pullman and Newport elementary schools, which receive federal Title 1 funding because of high numbers of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches are seeing improvement in math and reading at some grades. Crestview, the other Title I elementary school, did not improve in third, fourth or fifth grade.

Woodbury fifth-graders improved from 43 to 65 percent proficiency in math.

Pullman fourth-graders also improved in math over last year's fourth-grade, going from 72 to 83 percent proficiency and fifth-grade from 33 to 59 percent. Pine Hill fifth-graders went from 34 to 61 percent.

Hillside fourth-grade scores improved from 62 to 74 percent and fifth-graders improved 10 points in math to 71 percent when compared to last year's fifth-graders.

Elementary reading scores varied but high performing schools, in general, stayed the same from last year.

The test results show areas of improvement and those that need improving, District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

"We also show strong results in the area of reading and can be especially proud of our math progress at the middle schools," he said. "The efforts of our teaching staff through the system are making a difference."

While there are still achievement gaps among certain groups of students that are improving, efforts to that end will continue, Jacobus said.

Overall, 84 percent of 833 students are proficient in reading compared with 75 percent statewide, according the district.

Pullman, Grey Cloud and Pine Hill improved in third, fourth and fifth grades and Newport in third grade. Armstrong increased in fourth and fifth grade, but dropped in third grade.

In sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade reading, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Lake middle schools showed improved scores when compared to last year. Oltman students also improved with all students now in the 70th percentile.

In math, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Lake middle schools showed improvement. Improvement at Oltman, where there has been a concentrated effort to improve math achievement, was dramatic.

Overall, 68 percent of district students are proficient in math compared with 61 percent at the state level.

Sixth-graders posted a 63.9 percent proficiency rate. The previous year's sixth-graders had only 43 percent proficiency. There was improvement at other grades too. Seventh-grade proficiency jumped from 41 to 68.4 percent. Eighth-graders boosted proficiency from 38 to 55.7 percent.

Oltman teachers are "super excited" about reading and math scores, said Principal Becky Schroeder.

Teachers spent a year researching how students learn and changed the way they teach, Schroeder said. Math teachers used iPads and there was less emphasis on memorization and more on the process of why and how math problems get solved, according to Schroeder.

Efforts will continue, she said, with students solving a list of 30 math problems each night and teacher emphasis on problem solving and processing skills.

High school scores dip

High School math scores on the MCAII test and the GRAD test required for graduation went down this year as they did statewide, but Woodbury and East Ridge each dropped by more than 10 points.

While the Park score of 62.8 on the GRAD test and 45.3 on the MCAII are near state averages, they remain low.

Park Principal Craig Paul said that in addition to past efforts to increase achievement, new ones are being implemented including:

n All students not proficient in math will get intervention on missed math concepts.

n All ninth-grade intervention classes will be using iPads to access math learning technology in addition to access to the Plato computer program in use for several years for independent learning.

n The ninth-grade academy will focus on math across the curriculum and regularly measure student achievement throughout the year.

n A special group of building and district staff members will be using data to focus the improvement efforts on targeted areas in the math curriculum.

n All students in grades nine, 10 and 11 will be tested to see if they have achieved one year of academic growth in math.

In September, the Minnesota Department of Education will begin Multiple Measurement Ratings for schools, under a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind regulations. Instead of labeling schools as "not making adequate progress," for test scores only, schools will measure the degree of growth students make from one year to the next.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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