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Editorial: MCA exam is only one measure of school success

There is good news to be found in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores earned by Rosemount students this year. In almost all cases results locally were better than those statewide and in many cases this year's students improved on the performance of local students who took the test last year.

There are some questions, however, about exactly what those scores mean.

At perhaps the most important level, the scores will help determine whether any Rosemount schools -- or the district as a whole -- will be placed on the state's list of schools failing to make adequate academic progress. Talk to any local administrator, though, and that possibility seems far from the first thing that comes to mind. District 196 superintendent John Currie said this week he believes the increasingly stringent standards the state imposes mean eventually every school in the district will fail to meet its goals.

Currie said the MCAs have done well to help districts focus on groups of students who might otherwise have been underserved, but that's a lot of pressure for just one test.

The message in ISD 196, instead, seems to be that the MCA results released Monday are an evaluation tool like any other test students take. It will help schools understand what they're doing well and where they need work, but it is hardly the only measure of whether schools are succeeding.

That appears to be the most sensible approach. For all the importance the state places on the MCA, it is still only one test. To treat it as more than that -- to go out of your way preparing students specifically for that one day of the year -- is to risk missing other important lessons. Performing well on the MCAs is important and failing to show adequate improvement can lead to serious penalties. But the way to avoid those penalties is to learn the lessons these results carry with them and use them to make the school as a whole better.

Finding ways to successfully educate the community's children is what school districts are there to do. Nobody should expect anything less and we are confident ISD 196 will continue to make progress.