Flexible Learning Year had positive effect on test results

Springfield School Superintendent Keith Kottke cited the positive effects of the Flexible Learning Year (FLY) Consortium as part of the reason for his school’s higher 2013 MCAIII test results released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

He said Springfield and Sleepy Eye being part of the FLY has enabled them to share best practices.

“I think it’s been very productive for both schools,” Kottke said. “Coaches do it too. We’ll break down the data and go from there to improve.”

Sleepy Eye High School Principal Shane Laffen said his school’s 2013 seventh- and eighth-grade MCAIII test scores were higher than last year.

“Plus, we had a lot of students who were just a (test) question or two away from meeting or exceeding standards,” Laffen said.

Sleepy Eye led area schools with 68.4 percent of fourth graders exceeding math test standards. Springfield was next at 63.3 percent. Springfield led sixth-grade math test takers with 67.6 percent exceeding standards. Sleepy Eye was next at 53.1 percent.

“Some of our math test scores are the highest since we began MCAIII (tests, three years ago),” said Kottke. “Our upper elementary scores were very good. We’re a strong reading school. Our district average was quite good too.”

Springfield led area schools in third grade MCAIII reading test results with 56.5 percent of its students meeting standards. Meanwhile, 30.4 percent of Sleepy Eye third graders exceeded standards.

Fourth grade test results were very close with 53.1 percent of Springfield students meeting standards and 52.6 percent of Sleepy Eye students meeting standards.

Springfield led area reading test-takers in the seventh grade with 49 percent meeting standards and 19.6 percent exceeding standards.

In 2013, students took new tests for the first time that were based on more challenging reading standards Minnesota adopted to help ensure students are better prepared after graduation, according to an MDE news release.

Last year, MCAIII math test takers were given the option of taking an online test up to three times and using their highest score. This year, the state’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) flexibility waiver allowed students just one test, a likely reason for slightly lower math scores this year, according to MDE.

Kottke said he favored students taking up to three tests and made it known to Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius.

Twenty-two of the 25 school districts applied and received Commissioner of Education approval for a three-year FLY term beginning with the 2013-14 school year. Area schools in the plan include Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Comfrey, Mountain Lake, Windom, Westbrook, Walnut Grove and Redwood Valley.

Allowing FLY schools to begin up to two weeks before Labor Day was intended to increase student achievement with shared staff training and development and boosting collaboration between schools and regional colleges.

Goals include determining if student achievement, as measured on state tests, rises by adding 10 instructional days prior to mandated late April testing dates.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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