The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 2, 2012

Area districts perform below state average on new science test



Only one grade in one district was deemed higher than 80 percent proficient. Belle Plaine fifth-graders were 86.4 percent proficient on the test. Supt. Kelly Smith said he views the fifth-grade scores of Oak Crest Elementary school as wonderful, and he and Oak Crest Principal Liann Hanson are pleased with the efforts of the staff and students.

“We celebrated with our staff and students during an ‘All School Meeting,’” Hanson said via email. “I credit the great scores to our teachers and our students.”

Hanson said the teachers have been working to align the school’s curriculum with state standards. Hanson said she doesn’t think the MCA science test is more difficult than the math or reading tests.

“I think there is more emphasis on reading and math at times in schools, and science may get put on the back burner,” she said. “Our teachers make sure that science continues to be engaging and relevant ... and aligned with the science standards.”

Results indicate eighth-graders in southern Minnesota had the most difficulty with the test. The state average was 42 percent, and 20 area school districts’ eighth-graders didn’t reach that marker.

Mankato eighth-graders were 39.3 percent proficient. Numerous districts’ eighth-graders were 29 percent proficient or below. Sleepy Eye eighth-graders were 19.1 percent proficient, and St. James came in at 17.3 percent proficient.

Sleepy Eye Supt. John Cselovszki said it’s been difficult to find supplemental materials to prepare kids for the science test. But the district has a new curriculum in place, and fifth-grade scores already have begun to improve.

“We hope to see further improvement with our science scores as the years come,” he said.

St. James Supt. Becky Cselovszki said students have more difficulty with the test partly because there is no online practice test in science like there is for reading and math. And students who struggle with reading also might struggle with the science test, Cselovszki inferred.

“I also think, like math, that the test is a science test, but the vocabulary also makes it a reading test,” she said. “I also believe schools have put an emphasis on reading and math, as that is what the state rates us on at this time.”

Cselovszki said the St. James district has been revising its curriculum and working to align it with state standards.

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