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MCA results are encouraging in District 196

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District got a big-picture look at its performance on this year's Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment and teaching and learning director Steve Troen likes what he sees.

District 196 students scored better than their peers statewide at all grade levels on the test, which is a key component in determining whether schools and districts have made adequate progress toward meeting national No Child Left Behind goals.

Results for the state-mandated test were released late last week. Students in third- through eighth grades take both math and reading tests. High school sophomores take a reading test and juniors take a math test. Students scores are grouped according to whether they failed to meet, partially met, met or exceeded standards.

Troen said the results serve as the beginning of a conversation about how students are performing.

"It's useful to start looking at general patterns over time, looking for growth year to year, comparing schools within the district," he said.Scoring above state averages is an expectation in a district like ISD 196, but Troen said there are some other numbers that are encouraging. Fifth grade scores were strong across the district, Troen said, while scores for third graders were down slightly from last year.

"There were some individual schools that showed some strong gains," Troen said.

Rosemount Middle school sixth graders had a 10 percentage point improvement over last year on the MCA math test and eighth graders at Scott Highlands Middle School, which draws some students from Rosemount, had a 16 percentage point improvement on the reading section of the test.

Those kinds of results spark conversations about what RMS is doing to teach math to sixth graders, or how eighth grade teachers at SHMS approach reading lessons.

"When we see a 10 percentage point or a 16 percentage point (increase) that's cause for celebration," Troen said.

Rosemount Middle School principal Mary Thompson said the school has been working on a four-year plant to improve students' math skills. Students take end-of-week tests and go through remediation if they don't reach the desired level of proficiency. Teachers also work on math skills during activity times and the school also instituted a computer program called Skills Tutor to help students work on math.

"If a kid doesn't understand number sets or a kid doesn't understand another part of the test, (teachers) really work hard to make those kids proficient," RMS principal Mary Thompson said. "It's not teaching the same way every day but coming up with a variety of strategies."

Districtwide, 13 percent more high school juniors met state standards on the MCA math test.

That 11th grade math test was a source of struggles both in the district and around Minnesota. Only 56 percent of District 196 juniors either met or exceeded state standards. But that's still better than Minnesota as a whole, where only 43 percent of juniors met standards.

The Minnesota Department of Education will release more detailed results later this year from the MCA -- including scores among various sub-groups of students -- and information about schools that failed to make adequate progress toward No Child Left Behind goals.