Bertrang: Gauge set back to start in testing

NEW ULM – The Minnesota Comprehensive Achievement (MCA) test scores released Monday were described by Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius as “a snapshot in time that tells us how our students are doing in mastering our state standards.”

What they might not be is a good basis for comparison to past achievement in the classroom. Big changes in the tests and testing procedures make it hard to compare to past years’ results to measure progress.

“We’re setting the gauge back to the start,” said District 88 Superintendent Jeff Bertrang on Monday.

This past year was the first year students took a new, more rigorous reading test, one that is geared more to career- and college-ready standards. The more challenging test is certain to drop state scores on the average in comparison to previous years.

Another change would affect the math test, which most students take online. In 2012, students were allowed to log in and take the test up to three times, and have their highest score count. In 2013, the state went back to giving students just one shot at the test.

Casselius cautioned against judging progress on the basis of one year’s ups or downs. Long-term trends over several years matter, and Minnesota continues to be a national leader in ACT test scores by students preparing to enter college.

Bertrang said District 88 officials are just starting to delve into the data to see how different subpopulations of students fared in the test. Such groups as special education students, students learning English, minority students and students in the free and reduced-price lunch programs may have different outcomes, and District 88 educators want to be sure they are meeting their needs.

Bertrang said it was encouraging that New Ulm students finished above the state average in math, reading and science, but the district’s Professional Learning Communities will be taking a close look at the results to see where strides are being made, and where the district needs to be heading.

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