2017 MCA scores show mixed results in Robbinsdale Area Schools

A chart displays 2017 MCA proficiency levels in math, science, and reading as demonstrated by student testing in the Robbinsdale Area School District. (Submitted photos)

Math scores spike, while reading and science scores dropped from 2016

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Students in the Robbinsdale Area School District who took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment showed slight drops in reading and science proficiency scores in 2017, but had slightly better performances in math, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Education.

In a statement, district representatives pointed to pockets of progress laced into the overall results, in addition to a few lower score results.

“Our 2017 MCA results suggest areas of progress (elementary reading, middle school math, and high school math) and areas of challenge (middle and high school reading, elementary math, elementary and high school science). Overall, our performance was similar to 2016, although we would have liked to see increases across the board,” the district statement said.

The district performed lower than state averages, with proficiency rates of 40.6 percent in science, 47.8 percent in reading, and 41.6 percent in math.

This was the first year math proficiency rates have increased in the district, since a decrease in scores that had continued over the past five years. The math proficiency rate was 39.7 percent in 2016, while district students were at 45.7 percent proficiency in 2013. Reading proficiency dropped this year from 49.2 percent in 2016, and science scores fell from last year’s 41.7 percent.

The percentage of students either partially meeting or not meeting the proficiency standards is more than half of those tested, with 58.4 percent not reaching proficient math levels, 52.2 percent falling behind in reading, and 59.3 percent falling short of science proficiency standards.

The statewide scores reflect that more than half of students in Minnesota do meet the proficiency standards for all three subjects, meaning the district falls behind the state average. However, overall statewide proficiency rates did decline by less than one percent from 2016, and had been declining since 2014.

Students are able to opt out of testing, meaning the sample size is often smaller than the actual student body, which may mean the testing doesn’t fully reflect a district’s overall proficiency level. High school students typically have a higher rate of opting out than grades 3-8, especially in math and science.

However, in its statement, the Robbinsdale district officials also said small percentages of students opt out of the tests, citing an average of 1.4 percent of students opting out of reading and 1.2 percent for math.

“The district respects our families’ right to participate or not participate in these tests,” the statement said.

Education Minnesota president Denise Specht said in a statement to the press released on Aug. 7 that test scores are not an end-all reflection of student achievement, and took issue with the use of such testing as a measurement of progress.

“A single test score cannot measure the progress toward a well-rounded education any more than a photo on a driver’s license can show someone’s skill behind the wheel,” she said. “Minnesota, and many other states, are moving toward more authentic measures of equity in our schools than test scores alone, which is a welcome change. The testing industry continues to be dominated by a few profit-driven corporations and suffers from a frustrating lack of transparency. We can only hope that someday teachers will see the questions on these tests in time to judge for themselves how well they match their school’s curriculum.”

A graph shows a breakdown of student demographics in Robbinsdale Area Schools.

Equity has become a major focus of Robbinsdale Area Schools, with a Unified District Vision plan adopted to provide a roadmap for closing achievement gaps among students of different racial and socioeconomic groups. That achievement gap is noticeable in the MCA testing results, although it, too, may be somewhat impacted by the sample size.

By the numbers

The 2017 MCA testing results can be broken down as follows:
-Overall student proficiency is at 41.5 percent, up from last year’s 39.5 percent overall proficiency. This year, a total of 6,446 students were tested in the district.
-Math scores in the district are up to 41.6 percent, compared with last year’s 39.7 percent.
-Science scores dropped to 40.6 percent from last year’s 41.7 percent.
-Reading scores were down to 47.8 percent from 49.2 percent in 2016.
-In science, African-American students had a 16.2 percent proficiency rate from a sample size of 742 students, white students were 62.5 percent proficient from a sample of 1,092 students , American Indian students were 38.1 percent proficient from a sample of 21 students, Asian students were 37.2 percent proficient out of a sample of 180 students, and Hispanic students were 23.2 percent proficient from a sample of 336 students
-In reading, African-American students had a 26.4 percent proficiency rate out of 1,899 students, white students had a proficiency of 69.3 percent from a sample of 2,563 students, which was slightly higher than the state average of 68.8 percent; American Indian students had a rate of 31.3 percent out of 48 students, Asian students had a rate of 45.4 out of 414 students, and Hispanic students had a rate of 34.2 percent out of 944 students.
-In math, African-American students had a proficiency rate of 18.9 percent out of 1,917 students, white students had a rate of 63.4 percent out of 2,531 students, American Indian students had a rate of 26.1 percent out of 46 students, Asian students had a rate of 46.8 percent out of 406 students, and Hispanic students had a rate of 28.2 percent out of 984 students tested.