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Schools get mixed results on MCA exams

Farmington students had mixed results on state-mandated Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests for 2008, but overall district officials see good news in the figures released this week.

Students at several grade levels -- particularly in District 192 elementary schools -- scored well above state averages on the math and reading tests taken by students statewide. And assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth said most students improved on results from the previous year's tests.

Students in third through eighth grades took tests in math and reading. High school sophomores took a reading test and juniors took a math test.

"We've pretty much showed growth in every area," Weymouth said. "Reading and math, especially at the elementary level, are very good and showed increases across the grade levels.

"Where there were the biggest gains in reading, which is huge, is in sixth and seventh grade at (Farmington Middle School) East, anywhere from 13 to 15 percent."

The improvements were not universal. Scores for FHS juniors slipped from last year on the MCA math test, which is one part of a formula that determines whether students are making adequate progress toward national No Child Left Behind goals. At Farmington High School only 22.8 percent of juniors either met or exceeded standards.

They're not alone in their struggles. Statewide only 34 percent of juniors met standards. Weymouth said new math standards are part of the reason for that performance.

There were other areas where Farmington students trailed students statewide. Slightly more than 69 percent of Farmington sophomores met or exceeded standards on the MCA reading test, slightly below the 71 percent rate statewide.

Farmington Middle School students trailed the state on eighth grade math (45.1 percent to 58 percent) and reading (65.5 percent to 66 percent) results, sixth grade math results (63.1 percent to 65 percent) and seventh grade math results (58.1 percent to 61 percent).

"We're disappointed in some of the areas, but it's not the kind of disappointment that's sort of like a frustrated disappointment. It's an affirming disappointment that these are the areas where we've known (there are challenges)," Weymouth said. "It helps us know more information.... It's not the be all, end all. It might be for the state but we hope to look beyond that."

Weymouth said the district will look closely at the test results and find areas where it can make improvements.

Sixth graders performed better than students statewide on the MCA reading test (79 percent at or above standards to 70 percent statewide), as did seventh graders (72.7 percent to 65 percent).

Things looked even better at the elementary level, where only two classes trailed students statewide. Seventy percent of Akin Road Elementary School fourth graders met or exceeded standards on the MCA math test, compared to 72 percent statewide. On the fifth grade math test 63.9 percent of ARES fifth graders met or exceeded standards, trailing the 66 percent of fifth graders statewide who did that well.

In some instances Farmington grade schoolers were well ahead of their peers statewide. At Meadowview Elementary School 93.6 percent of third graders scored at or above standards on the math test, significantly better than the 81 percent that did that well statewide. At North Trail, 91.1 percent of third graders scored at or ahead of standards on the MCA reading tests, better than the 79 percent across the state who did that well.

Results like that should be encouraging for District 192, which last year had five of its seven schools singled out for failing to make adequate yearly progress. ARES, which had the best results in the district on third, fourth and fifth grade reading tests, was one of those schools. MVES, which was not on the AYP list last year, was best in the district on third, fourth and fifth grade math tests.

The district will not know until later whether its schools will be on the state's AYP list this year. A number of factors go into that decision, including the performance of a number of sub-groups on the MCA exam.