Elementary literacy program credited
After the pandemic forced schools to adapt with different means to instruct students, the Stillwater Area Public School’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment standardized test scores saw a dip compared to 2018, but saw an increase this year compared to 2021.
“After so many disruptions, and despite so many ongoing challenges, we all came back to school last year ready to learn,” director of teaching and learning Caleb Drexler Booth said in a press release.
The MCA allows schools and the state to gauge how students are comprehending the required material for their grade level. The test is not a pass or fail exam, but it offers districts information on the percentage of students who are proficient in the course material taught at their grade level.
At Stillwater, students in grades 3-5 take the math and reading portions of the MCA while students in grades 3 and 5 take science, too.
All middle schoolers take all subjects of the MCA, plus students in grades 9, 10 and 11 at the high school.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s data, the Stillwater Area Public School’s scores in all three testing categories improved from 2021 to 2022. This year, 56.4% of students earned proficiency in math, 58.7% in reading and 50.9% in science. While compared to 2021, following a year of no standardized testing, 53.4% of students were proficient in math, 56.2% in reading and 49.8% in science.
“These scores show the resiliency of our students and dedication of our staff,” Drexler Booth said in the release.
The improvement shows that the school district is slowly progressing toward where it was pre-pandemic in 2018 when 66.2% of students were proficient in math, 69% in reading and 59.5% in science.
“We’re beginning to recover from the instructional impact of COVID. Our students were back in school in front of teachers last year,” said director of communications Carissa Keister.
Since 2018, the Stillwater schools have collectively achieved academic proficiency per grade level above the statewide averages.
For example, in 2018, 57.2% of students across the state were proficient in math, 59.9% in reading and 52% in science, which was below Stillwater’s average proficiency rates for the same year.
Contending with statewide proficiency scores hasn’t been difficult for Stillwater area students as district wide averages in all three subjects of math, reading and science have never dipped below the statewide proficiency levels since 2018.
“While this data is encouraging, we recognize we have more work to do,” Drexler Booth said.
As a way to continue academic improvement in accordance with state requirements per grade level, the Stillwater district invested in a literacy curriculum to ensure learning continues to excel.
“We were also implementing the newer components of our literacy curriculum, and teachers were provided with focus and support to ensure they were mastering the new pieces,” Keister said.
Afton-Lakeland, Brookview, Lake Elmo, Rutherford and Stonebridge elementary schools in the Stillwater district offered promising student proficiency scores in 2022 that are comparable to 2018 or exceed 2018 proficiency scores entirely.
In 2018, for example, 72.3% of Brookview Elementary students were proficient in math, 64.9% in reading and 63.2% proficient in science. In 2021, scores didn’t nosedive below 50% of student proficiency levels. However, students in 2022 rebounded as 65.6% of students earned proficiency in math, 63% in reading and 68.1% in science, according to MDE’s data report.
Keister credits a focus on reinforcing literacy education in the elementary schools through supporting teachers to help students who need extra help to meet a grade’s designated reading level.
“When a student is struggling, they are receiving additional literacy instruction beyond the core curriculum. They’re working directly with an intervention teacher to develop and practice specific literacy skills,” Keister said.
At the secondary schools in the district, however, MCA results show differences compared to primary schools in the district.
At Stillwater Area High School, 2022 student proficiency levels are 41.9% in math, 59.5% in reading and 57.5% in science, which are lower than 2018 proficiency levels, as 58.5% of students were proficient in math, 72.3% in reading and 72.2% in science.
MCA test results are not the only standardized testing measure Stillwater uses to measure how well its students are performing academically, but the MCA offers a gauge on how well students are comprehending the material at their grade level.
“We’re dedicated to continuing to improve achievement and ensure all of our 8,100 kids are learning and growing academically, socially and emotionally,” said Drexler Booth in the release.