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Results generally good on MCA science test

The results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment science test have left Independent School District 196 with some questions about science education at the middle school level.

Fifth graders and high school students in the district performed better than state averages on the test, given this spring to fifth graders, eighth graders and high school students. But district eighth graders lagged behind their peers statewide.

Across the district, 41.2 percent of eighth graders either met or exceeded state standards on the second-year test. Statewide, 43 percent of students did that well.

Rosemount Middle School eighth graders trailed the rest of the district, with just 35.5 percent of students meeting standards. That's an improvement over last year, when 32.3 percent of RMS eighth graders met standards.

Part of the problem, said Steve Troen, the district's teaching and learning director, might be the order in which science lessons are taught in middle school. In some cases, Troen said, students might be getting tested on information they haven't covered yet.

"We're taking a close look at that," said Steve Troen, the district's director of teaching and learning. "Really, I look at it as an opportunity in working with teachers and the middle-level principals: Why is that? Let's dive in and look at that and make changes as needed."

The state also made changes to its science standards in recent years.

The news was better elsewhere. The 55.3 percent of District 196 fifth graders who passed the test this year is well ahead of the 45 percent of Minnesota students who passed. And the the 63.5 percent of high school students who passed is much better than the 50 percent statewide who passed.

Rosemount schools also had good results. Rosemount Elementary School bettered state averages but had the worst results among local schools with 45.1 percent of fifth graders passing the test. 50.4 percent of Shannon Park Elementary fifth graders and 52.2 percent of Parkview Elementary fifth graders passed the test.

At Rosemount High School, 67.7 percent of students passed.

All Rosemount schools improved on their scores from 2008.

"I think overall when you look at the elementary and the high school and trends throughout the state, I think there's satisfaction in the upward trend. I think you always have to have a forward lean as an organization."

For school districts, the MCA science test is primarily a tool to see where they need to make some adjustments. Unlike the math and reading parts of the test, the science test does not contribute to assessments of whether district's are making adequate progress toward national No Child Left Behind goals. The tests do not have any impact on students' academic careers, either.

But Troen said there is value in the test as a means of assessing the district's efforts.

"It's another data set to look at and say, 'How are we doing and where can we improve?'" Troen said.