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Science scores up, but there's room for more

The results were generally better the second time around, but Farmington schools still have some work to do when it comes to meeting state science standards.

Students at most District 192 schools improved on last year's results on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment science test but only two district schools performed better than the state average for their grade level.

This is the second year the state has given the MCA science test to students in fifth and eighth grades and at the high school level.

Students at North Trail Elementary School once again turned in the district's best results, with 54.3 percent of students either meeting or exceeding state standards. Statewide, only 45 percent of students did as well. Farmington High School was the only other local school to beat the state average, with 50.5 percent of students meeting standards. That's just slightly better than the 50 percent statewide that met expectations but well ahead of the 41 percent of FHS students who passed last year.

Things dropped off after that. At Farmington Middle School, 40.1 percent of students met or exceeded state standards, compared to 43 percent statewide. Meadowview Elementary School had 42.3 percent of its students meet or exceed expectations, Akin Road Elementary had 36.6 percent pass and Farmington Elementary had 35.5 percent pass.

FES and Meadowview were the only local schools whose performance dropped off from last year. Meadowview fell from 48.7 percent meeting or exceeding standards last year to 42.3 percent this year. FES fell from 36.7 percent to 35.5 percent.

"Obviously those scores aren't where we want them to be," said Christine Weymouth, the district's assistant superintendent.

Weymouth said the low scores could be at least in part a result of changes the state has made to its science standards since 2006, when the district last reviewed its science curriculum. She said the district will review that curriculum again this year to make sure students are learning the things the state expects them to know.

For now, at least, the MCA science results are valuable to districts primarily as a measuring stick to help districts evaluate their efforts to teach science. The state does not use the MCA science test to measure whether school districts are making adequate progress toward national No Child Left Behind goals, and students do not have to pass the test in order to graduate.

"I don't think we're satisfied with the results, but it's a single test that tells us something," Weymouth said.

Weymouth said she expects Farmington teachers and administrators to talk at upcoming work sessions about how they can improve science instruction. And she expects discussions both within and between schools to help teachers figure out what works and what doesn't.

What, for example, is North Trail Elementary School doing that has allowed it to have success where other district elementary schools have struggled?

"It doesn't just involve fifth grade teachers. It involves grades one, two, three, four and five," Weymouth said. "I think the scores tell us where we need to go and sort of provide the ammunition for further discussion about how we can get better at science instruction.... That does mean schools looking at other schools. Every school does something a little bit different."

Weymouth said the district will factor in the science results as schools work on plans for improving performance.