District ranks ‘in the middle’ for test scores

Based on the latest state test scores under the new ranking system, the Cambridge-Isanti School District ranks “right in the middle.”

Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Truebenbach presented the Minnesota Department of Education’s school rankings for 2012 based on the new testing system, Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR), during the school board meeting Thursday, Sept. 20.

MMR, which replaced the previous system Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), measures each school based on state test scores, growth in student achievement, reduction of the achievement gap and graduation rates for high schools.

“Under the MMR system our school district is right in the middle,” Truebenbach said. “We aren’t at the top and we aren’t at the bottom, and we didn’t receive any designations for any of our schools.”

Under the MMR system the designations are:

• Reward schools -These schools are the highest performing Title 1 schools in the state, ranking in the top 15 percent.

• Celebration eligible – Schools in the top 25 percent that are eligible to become reward schools.

• Continuous improvement – Schools on the cusp of failing into the most struggling categories. These schools are required to write school turnaround plans.

• Focus schools – These schools are making the biggest contribution to the achievement gap or are high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent. Required to work with the state on turnaround plans to address poor performance or graduation rates.

• Priority schools – The 5 percent of the lowest performing schools in the state. Required to collaborate with the state department of education to develop a turnaround plan.

As a school district, in testing proficiency in mathematics, the district received 62.4 percent while the state average was 62.7 percent. In testing proficiency in reading, the district received 77.5 percent while the state average was 76.4 percent. In testing proficiency in science, the district received 54.40 percent while the state average was 50.80 percent.

“In the old system, once a student reached proficiency the student was done,” Truebenbach explained. “With the new system, it holds the student accountable to reach proficiency, maintain progress and reach targeted growth. With the new system, the student continues to work toward exceeding proficiency.”

Truebenbach said understanding the new testing system is complicated.

“The goal this year is to interpret the data and figure out how it compares to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP),” Truebenbach said. “If we were under AYP, 2012 is the first year as a district we would have made AYP in all areas in the past five years.”

When breaking the test scores down by grades regarding proficiency rate trends in mathematics, in grades 3-5, the district was at 72.6 percent while the state average was 71.2 percent. In testing reading for grades 3-5, the district was at 78.7 percent while the state average was 78.6 percent.

When breaking the test scores down by grades regarding proficiency rate trends in mathematics, in grades 6-8, the district was at 57.8 percent while the state average was 60.3 percent. In testing reading for grades 6-8, the district was at 75.8 percent while the state average was 73.5 percent.

At Cambridge-Isanti High School, in testing proficiency in mathematics (grade 11), the high school was at 43.8 percent while the state average was 43.9 percent. In testing proficiency in reading at the high school (grade 10), the high school was at 79.2 percent while the state average was 78.4 percent.

In testing science proficiency in grades 5 and 8 at the intermediate and middle school, grade 5 tested at 65.6 percent while the state average was 58.8 percent. In grade 8, the district was at 47.6 percent while the state average was at 43.5 percent.

At the high school, in testing life science proficiency, the high school was at 52.6 percent while the state average was 53.3 percent.

Class Size Ratios

School Board Member Mark Becker brought up concerns with class size ratios.

He noted three classes—one at Cambridge Primary, one at Isanti Intermediate and one at Cambridge Intermediate—are over the recommended class size goals.

He also noted five classes—two at School for All Seasons, one at Isanti Intermediate and one at Minnesota Center—are over the class size goal for one-half day or more.

Current average class size goals for kindergarten are 20 to 22 students; grades 1-3, 22 to 24 students; grades 4-5, 24 to 26 students; grade 6, 26 to 28 students; grades 7-8, 28 to 30 students and grades 9-12, 30 students.

“I just want to make sure we are offering the best environment possible to make sure students can succeed,” Becker said. “I realize changes may impact the budget.”

Becker said these concerns “come from the heart” and he filed for school board to make a difference.

“It has been proven for decades that more intervention and more one-on-one can make a difference,” Becker said.

Becker feels the class size range goals are adequate, but noted there are other classrooms getting close to being over the recommended ratio.

“I’m not asking for full-time teachers, but I’m just trying to give the students a better environment,” Becker said. “If it’s a tough environment, the students are going to have a tough time. I think we need to look at this and give our students and staff a chance to succeed.”

Director of Finance Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson explained the class size ranges are recommended by administration and given to the school board.

Superintendent Bruce Novak said class size ranges changed about two years ago due to budget cuts.

“We are trying to maintain class size ranges the best we can,” Novak said. “I think we are doing a remarkable job trying to keep it within range.”

Becker said he just wants to keep class size ratios as a discussion point.

“I’m just wondering if we can do something to ease the pain,” Becker said.

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