Students test above state average in math

MCA test results show improvements in some areas, while seeing downward trends in others

By Elizabeth Sias

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test results are in, and Braham area students improved in some areas, while seeing downward trends in others.

Joan Proza, district test coordinator, presented a slide show during the school board meeting Monday, Sept. 19, to review the 2011 results with board members.

Third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders tested above the state average in math — for instance, 94.3 percent of Braham third graders compared to 70.1 percent of Minnesota third graders were proficient — but fourth, fifth and sixth graders saw a decrease in proficiency from 2010 results.

On the other hand, the district’s seventh, eighth and 11th graders tested below the state’s proficiency level for math. The biggest difference is seventh graders, 31.7 percent of whom tested proficient compared to 51.7 percent of Minnesota seventh graders.

Until the drop to 31.7 percent in 2011, the math test scores for Braham’s seventh graders began increasing in 2008 to 57.1 percent proficient in 2010. Proza said new standards were graded in 2011, which may be a factor in the decline.

“The MCA IIIs in math have not been kind to us or we really missed something,” she said.

For reading, third and fifth graders tested above the state for proficiency, with both seeing an upward trend since 2009 — 87.9 percent of Braham’s fifth graders were proficient, compared to 61.9 percent in 2009, for example.

The remaining five grades — fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th — tested below the state proficiency level. Both fourth and 10th graders’ test scores increased from 2007 to 2010, but saw a drop in 2011.

“As a small schools, we’re going to see those blips a little bit more up and down,” Superintendent Greg Winter said. “I think we’re doing better and better as the years go on in terms of identifying data and where we have to make improvements, but can we always get better? Absolutely.”

School Improvement Plan (SIP)

Several schools have not been approved for years two and three of the SIP program, including Braham, according to Office of Turnaround Schools Officer Mike Thompson.

A conference call was held with Steve Dibb, acting director of the Office of Turnaround Schools on Aug. 26. A meeting was held at the Minnesota Department of Education headquarters in Roseville on Aug. 31, and a second conference call was held Sept. 9 to finalize outstanding issues for Braham’s grant application.

Thompson completed a final rewrite last Thursday, Sept. 15, he said, and the grant application was submitted electronically Monday, Sept. 19. The district is hoping for approval this week.

“I feel very confident in all the hard work that (school staff) have put into this,” Winter said.

If approved, many of the present grant activities from last year would continue this year. Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) for teachers, multiple teacher evaluations, student intervention services provided by a chemical dependency counselor and a part-time social worker would continue.

Other programs, including formative assessment for students, would commence this year.

Truth in Taxation Public Hearing

Braham Area School District’s “Truth In Taxation Public Hearing” will be held as part of the regular December school board meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Braham Area High School Community Room.

In other action, the board:

• Approved the hiring of Erin Gaffaney, Lori Lemieux and Amber VanHorn. Gaffaney will fill the full-time K-12 Vocal Music position for the 2011-2012 school year. Lemieux will be a full-time, long-term substitute for 4th grade. VanHorn will be a full-time, long-term kindergarten substitute for the first quarter of the 2011-2012 school year.

• Approved the proposed 2011 property tax levy payable 2012. The school district’s proposed property tax levy must be certified by the school board and submitted to the county auditor by Sept. 30. The board authorized the district to levy the maximum allowable.