About test scores in Minnesota

Although test scores are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2005-2006 Minnesota used the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-II (MCA-II) to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 10 in reading and in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in math. The MCA-II is a standards-based test that measures how well students are meeting the state's grade-level expectations.

Minnesota also used the Basic Skills Test (BST) to test students in grade 10 in writing. Unlike the MCA-II, the BST is not aligned with state standards, but instead tests students for basic competency. Students who entered grade 8 in 2004-2005 or earlier must pass the BST in order to graduate from high school.

How are the tests scored?
MCA-II results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four levels: does not meet standards, partially meets standards, meets standards and exceeds standards. The goal is for all students to meet or exceed standards.

The BST writing test is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, and students must receive a score of 3 or above to pass. The goal is for all students to pass the test.

Which scores are included on GreatSchools profiles?
The combined percentage of students meeting and exceeding standards is displayed for the MCA-II. For the BST, GreatSchools displays the percentage of students passing.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results for the BST to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the Minnesota Department of Education; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?
The MCA provides an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Students who entered grade 8 in 2004-2005 or earlier must pass the BST in reading, math and writing to receive a high school diploma. Students are given several opportunities to pass the BST.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. Because Minnesota test scores help determine whether a given school will receive financial rewards or penalties from the state, your child may be eligible to receive federal and/or state money for tutoring or to transfer to another school.

What changes did Minnesota implement in the 2005-2006 school year?
Minnesota replaced the MCA tests given in previous years with MCA-II tests aligned to new state standards. The grade 8 BST reading and math tests were also discontinued.

What changes to the tests are planned for the future?
Beginning in spring 2007, Minnesota will administer the MCA-II/GRAD Test of Written Composition in grade 9. This test will replace the grade 10 BST writing test. Beginning in spring 2008, students will take an MCA-II test in science in grades 5 and 8 and once in high school.

Students entering grade 8 in 2005-2006 and beyond must pass the MCA-II/GRAD (Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma) in reading, math and writing in order to graduate. The MCA-II/GRAD Test of Written Composition will be given in grade 9. The MCA-II/GRAD in reading and math will be components of the MCA-II tests given in grades 10 and 11 respectively. Students earn a diploma by achieving a proficient score on the MCA-II or a passing score on the GRAD component of the MCA-II. Students will have multiple opportunities to retake the GRAD tests if they do not pass the first time.

A few parting words
Even though test scores can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school quality and visit in person before making any final assessment.

Source: MN Dept. of Education, 2005-2006

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