Local test scores increase

WILLMAR -- The release of state testing data indicates that scores for Willmar's elementary schools increased from 2013 to 2014. The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, administered to students in April, is one of the tools school districts use t...

WILLMAR - The release of state testing data indicates that scores for Willmar’s elementary schools increased from 2013 to 2014.
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, administered to students in April, is one of the tools school districts use to measure whether a school’s students are meeting the state’s expectations. The testing system is required by state and federal law.
On October 1, the state will release its Multiple Measurement Ratings, which use the test scores and other information to look at achievement gaps and student growth from year to year. The tests also gauge how well students and teachers are adjusting to a new set of academic standards implemented in recent years.
Along with releasing test scores, the Minnesota Department of Education posted updated School Report Card reports.

Willmar’s report card includes information on how its students fared in the tests. Math, science and reading scores increased at the district’s two elementary schools.
When the state started issuing Multiple Measurement Ratings scores several years ago, Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools were told they needed a greater effort to decrease achievement gaps.
Kennedy was designated a Priority School, among the lowest achieving schools in the state, which made it eligible for federal grants to help in its turnaround effort. Roosevelt was labeled a Focus School, with one of the larger achievement gaps in the state.
The district implemented a number of changes in the past two years, including more individualized instruction and greater efforts to involve minority communities in school life. Roosevelt was not eligible for federal grants, but the district implemented many of the changes there using other funds.
The percentage of students considered proficient in reading and math increased from 2013 to 2014, in both K-5 schools.
“The elementaries did amazing,” said Cheryl Nash, the district’s director of teaching and learning. “Kennedy is continuing to grow.”
Scores at Willmar Middle School also increased in math, reading and science, with the largest increase in science. At Willmar Senior High, scores increased in science but dropped in math and reading.
In a news release from the Department of Education, Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said, “We are seeing steady improvement in student achievement. The trend line is up, and that’s progress.”
Cassellius continued, “This kind of change is exactly what we hope to see as our teachers master how to best teach our tougher standards, so each student approaches the test confident and fully prepared. It is critical that we use these scores, along with other indicators of student achievement, to inform our efforts on how best to support our teachers as they prepare our students for career and college.”
Education Minnesota, the state’s largest education union, responded to the release of the test results with skepticism.
“MCA data are almost worthless for teachers and parents who want to improve instruction for individual students,” said President Denise Specht in a news release. “The results come too late for teachers to help the students they had last spring and the results are too unsophisticated to guide teachers who have those students this fall.”
Specht called the tests “an expensive distraction from our educators’ mission of preparing each child for a successful life.”
Grades, conferences and contact with teachers are better indicators of students’ growth, Specht said in the release.
To take a look at the Minnesota Report Card, visit and click on “My School” to choose a school district or building.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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