August 31, 2023 at 1:44 p.m.
State releases test scores, grad rates
This is the time of year when the MN Department of Education releases a report card announcing scores of individual schools arising from testing done of students in the prior school year. The tests assess proficiency in math, reading and science in grades 3 to 8 and also grade 11 in math.
Science tests aren’t administered until grade 5 and are also taken once in the student’s high school career.
The North Branch and Chisago Lakes districts scores are experiencing some of the same lack of post pandemic bounce, although to different degrees, that other districts are seeing. State-wide the MDE reported scores are generally 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
“The results confirm the need for continuing support for students and educators,” stated the Department Commissioner Willie Jett. “As we enter a new school year, MDE is committed to providing support through programs such as COMPASS and implementing the READ Act and other new legislation.”
Chisago Lakes Dist 2144 is among leading districts at the high end of the proficiency percentiles. Chisago Lakes outperformed in all test areas. High school students were at 50.7 percent in math proficiency, 57.5 in reading and 50.5 percent at standards for science. Lakeside Elementary racked up the highest district building percentages— 67.5 in math, 61 in reading and 52.7 in science.
Director of Teaching and Learning Sarah Schmidt pointed out, “It’s a credit to the hard work of our staff and our ability to personalize instruction...(yet) like the rest of Minnesota Chisago Lakes has not seen the rebound in test scores since covid.”
North Branch school buildings were around the 30 percentiles, except for Sunrise River Elementary with elementary level science test scoring going from 39 to 45 percent proficient.
North Branch Superintendent Sara Paul also noted the school’s MCA scores are above state averages in math, reading and science.
Sunrise has lessons that connect science and math— to deepen understanding and retention. Staff are examining shifts that will be necessary to fully teach the new science standards. Supt. Paul added, “Student engagement increases with discovery and hands on learning” with new lesson plans.
Everybody saw a dip in proficiency scores in science, according to the state data. The exceptions locally are Taylors Falls and North Branch’s Sunrise River elementary schools with scores that went up.
Schmidt, Chisago Lakes Director of Teaching and Learning, also attributes the science proficiency dip to a set of revised standards passed into law in 2021.
“Our district, along with many across the state started transitioning to the new science standards, (which) have created a different approach to science based on an inquiry model. Our teachers are now instructing based on the new standards, (but) we are still being tested under the old standards. That juxtaposition along with recovering from the pandemic has resulted in the slightly lower scores,” she explained.
Students will all be tested under new science standards in spring of 2025.
One of the keys to maintaining the higher scoring percentiles in Chisago Lakes, Schmidt continued, is because teachers have the resources to “meet students where they’re at.” Chisago Lakes utilizes Multi Tiered Systems of Support or MTSS. It is a framework for consistency in instruction while still providing staff the ability to personalize instruction.
And, all elementary teachers have implemented a K-5 reading curriculum aligned to the science of reading. Teachers get two years of training in LETRS.
“Chisago Lakes is leading in this process across the state and has worked directly with MDE to help other districts with implementation,” Schmidt added. “We know if all students can read at grade level it opens up other doors and opportunities for them the rest of their lives.”
ON GRAD RATES
North Branch has some work ahead to boost graduation numbers. District 138 saw a dip in its state defined grad rate, as a percentage, from Class of 2019 at 89.6 percent to 84.1 in 2022— but this was up from 2021. Supt. Paul forecasts another increase in the grad rate when numbers are calculated for 2023 and are released in February.
Not all students graduate on the state’s timeline, the superintendent explained.
“We are proud to offer programming through the Norse Area Learning Center to support students with additional time to make their goal of receiving a high school diploma...we are proud to celebrate the 21 students that earned their diplomas last year,” and who do not show up in state data, she said.
Chisago Lakes is coming in with graduation rates about the same as pre-pandemic rates, with 2022 graduation 94.1 percent compared to 93.6 for 2019.
The Chisago Lakes class of 2022 was 240 students. North Branch had 207.