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District shows improvement on MCA science scores

One year after scoring below state averages on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment science test, students in Farmington schools have shown improvement across the board.

Students at all levels met or exceeded state science standards at a rate better than students statewide. Results from the test were released earlier this month.

"(Scores) are better, and I'd like to believe they're better because we systematically paid attention to the scores and looked at some very specific curriculum and instructional changes as a result of not being satisfied with our scores before," said assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth. "We have spent the last year reviewing our curriculum. We spent a significant amount of capital expenditures on science materials districtwide."

Weymouth, who promised difficult conversations in the district after last year's scores were released, said there has been a focus in the past year on teaching science regularly and with fidelity. Schools have worked to build a strong base so students are ready for a test that in some cases covers several years worth of material. Teachers have gotten training on teaching non-fiction writing, including writing related to science.

The MCA science test is given each year to students in fifth grade and eighth grade and at the high school level. Scores do not count toward schools' No Child Left Behind goals.

Among fifth graders, 48.4 percent of Farmington students either met or exceeded MCA science standards, ahead of the 46 percent that did as well statewide.

Akin Road Elementary School led the way, with 55.2 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards. Meadowview Elementary School was second at 51.8 percent. Riverview Elementary School was the only Farmington school that trailed the state average, with 34.2 percent of students meeting standards.

50.2 percent of eighth graders met or exceeded standards, compared to 44.4 percent statewide. At Dodge Middle School 53.3 percent of students met or exceeded standards. At Boeckman Middle School 47.1 percent met or exceeded standards.

At the high school level, 56.6 percent of students met or exceeded standards, better than a statewide average of 53.8 percent and well ahead of the 43.7 percent of FHS students that met or exceeded standards last year.

Weymouth was particularly happy to see an increasing percentage of Farmington students in the "exceeds standards" category. At Dodge Middle School, 17.6 percent of students exceeded standards, and at Boeckman 16.4 percent fell into that category.

"It's nice to see that we're not all in the 'meets standards,' but we've had people scoring high," Weymouth said.

This year's test results show progress, but Weymouth knows there is room to continue growing. She was happy to see scores above state averages, but she has her eyes on bigger goals. She'd like to see Farmington students scoring among schools with some of the best academic reputations in the state.

"We want to play with the big dogs," she said. "I think we consider ourselves a good comprehensive high school where our kids score and perform well.

"We're really happy to see progress and we know there's more progress to be made."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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