By Paul Downer
With new construction upgrades and strong scores in recently released test results, students and staff at Central Schools had plenty to feel good about as they headed back to the classroom on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
To summarize, new Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) scores for 2012 reflected positively on the district, high school ACT scores topped the state average in all categories for the first time ever last spring, and the new air conditioning system was on line just in time for faculty to feel comfortable last week as they set up their rooms and outdoor temperatures soared into the 90s.
“It’s a good way to start the year, that’s for sure,” said Superintendent Brian Corlett.
While the MMR scores paint a district-wide picture, the college preparatory ACT test, taken by 58 seniors last spring, is an indication of how well equipped the students who intend to go to college are as they leave Central.
Students graduating in 2012 posted an average overall ACT score of 23.5, better than the state average of 22.8. What’s more, the district exceeded the state average in each subcategory of English, math, reading and science. Average district scores in those categories were 22.3 for English (compared to 22.1 statewide), 24.5 in math (23.0 statewide), 23.1 in reading (22.9 statewide) and 23.5 in science (22.7 statewide).
Corlett said that Minnesota led the nation in terms of ACT scores for 2012, so finishing above the state average was no small achievement.
“That for us is a really positive jump,” he said.
District ACT scores have trended upward for the last five years. From 2008-12, Central posted average scores of 21.5, 22.0, 22.3, 22.0 and 23.5. During that time, the state average stayed relatively stable, ranging between 22.6 and 22.9.
CHS principal Tom Erickson said there were a number of factors that may have contributed to the higher ACT scores last spring. One of those was a stronger focus on ACT standards — in addition to Minnesota state standards — in the classroom.
“I attribute a lot to the efforts of teachers in the classroom. I think they did a nice job of taking ownership of what goals needed to be set and met, and then they were able to pursue that,” said Erickson.
A second factor may have been a special ACT prep course offered through community education and taught by CHS English teacher Michael Kray and math teacher Wade Degler.
“Those two individuals gave a fair amount of their time to help kids prepare for the ACT before and after school. We had a number of students who committed to that program and met regularly for quite a while — it might have been two or three months. It wasn’t just a one-time deal. I really think that’s something that helped as well,” said Erickson.
“We’re very pleased with these scores.”
Earlier this year the first MMR scores were released around the state, based on a combination of math and reading scores from 2010 and 2011 in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs).
More recently, MMR ratings for schools based on 2012 performance were made available, and the news remained good for Central Schools.
Central High School posted an overall MMR rating of 89.91, the middle school had an 83.11 score and the elementary posted a 77.63 rating.
The MMR measures four categories and takes them equally into account for its overall score. Those categories are proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction and high school graduation rate.
While the high school score was very strong, it was actually down a few points from the first MMR released, which gave Central High School an almost impossible to beat 97.12 percent rating.
“Our high school was down a few points, but it was still an outstanding MMR at nearly 90 percent,” said Corlett.
“We’re pretty happy with those scores,” he said. “There are a lot of good things going there. Really, it’s indicative of the hard work and the good work that our teachers are doing here in the classroom.”
While the high school score remained strong, the middle school and elementary school scores both jumped by over 20 points in the latest test results. In the first MMR release, the middle school posted a 61.83 score and the elementary school had a 53.96 score.
Corlett noted that all schools in the district met their proficiency standards, and the elementary school, while posting the lowest MMR score in the district, qualified as a “Celebration Eligible” school by scoring in the top 25 percent of elementary schools around the state. For achieving that status the district can and will apply to receive recognition from the Minnesota Department of Education.
Overall, Corlett said the improvement at the middle school and elementary school is likely due in part to a number of programs that have been implemented and have begun to positively impact middle school and upper elementary scores.
“It’s been a continuous effort for the last seven years,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my staff.”
Growth numbers were also a strong point in the results. In the high school, 73.1 percent of students showed medium to high growth in reading (compared to a state average of 76.7). In math, 91.1 percent of local high school students exhibited medium/high growth compared to 76.8 statewide.
In the middle school, medium/high growth numbers were 78 percent in reading and 77.1 in math. Those numbers both exceeded state averages of 76.7 in reading and 76.8 in math.
Elementary growth numbers in reading and math also exceeded the state average, with 80.7 percent of Central students showing medium/high growth reading (76.7 statewide) and 82.4 percent of Central students showing medium/high growth in math (76.8 statewide).
“The amount of growth that our kids showed is tremendous,” said Corlett, adding that, taken as a whole, the results were “very positive overall.”