Waconia Schools receive good news on MCA, MMR scores

Officials with Waconia Schools recently received a double dose of positive news regarding the district’s performance on the MCA tests and Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) scores for the 2012-13 school year.
The MCA results indicate the percentage of students who were proficient in the areas of reading for grades 3-8 and 10, math for grades 3-8 and 11, science for grades 5, 8 and 10, and composition for grade 9. At practically every level, Waconia topped the state average for proficiency, at times far exceeding the state average.
The latest MMR scores for Waconia’s schools were also favorable.
Both Bayview and Southview earned the “Reward School” designation, meaning they are among the top 15 percent of schools based on the four performance measures of MMR: Proficiency, Growth, Achievement Gap Reduction and Graduation Rate (high schools only). Only schools that receive Title I funding are eligible for the designations, which means that Clearwater and the high school do not receive designations.
Superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen was pleased with the district’s results on the MCAs and MMRs.
“These scores reflect a real dedication by an entire team of people to provide quality instruction to our students. I am very pleased with the efforts of our teaching staff, support staff, and leadership to make sure that all of our students have the tools they need to succeed,” Rajanen said.

MCA results
Waconia students took the MCAs this past spring and as noted, the results indicate the percentage of students who tested as proficient, meaning they met or exceeded standards. In 13 out of the 14 tests, Waconia students bested the state average for proficiency. The lone exception — grade 8 science, which includes life, earth, and physical science — trailed the state average by only one percent.
“Waconia Public Schools remains a high performing district, which is a testament to the hard work of our students, families and staff,” said Kathy Oliphant, Director of Teaching and Learning for Waconia Schools, who said district math scores showed high levels of achievement at all grades, both in overall proficiency and in relation to state averages.
As for reading, Oliphant explained that students in grades 3-8 and 10 took a new reading assessment aligned to more rigorous state and national standards (the Common Core Standards) starting in the spring of 2013. Because of this, results from the Reading MCA cannot be evaluated against previous years.
“With this being a new starting point for performance, all grade levels are performing significantly above the state level,” said Oliphant, who noted that Grade 10 reading is 10 percent above the state average, which is a significant improvement over past years.
When it comes to using information gleaned from the MCAs, Oliphant explained that MCA results, along with other local assessment data, are reviewed on a regular basis by district administrators, school improvement teams and district faculty and used as part of each school’s continuous improvement plans. District officials are already incorporating the latest results into district programming.
“The 2010 Minnesota Standards in English / Language Arts call for a new approach to Language Arts instruction, particularly at the secondary level,” Oliphant said. “At Clearwater and WHS, we are actively working on two goals for instructional programming: Design a positive intervention model to improve achievement for our struggling and reluctant readers (and) align instruction to the new Minnesota Standards in English / Language Arts and engage all students at high cognitive levels.”
District officials have also launched new learning opportunities in the areas of science and technology.
“Beginning this year, eighth grade students will use iPad technology in their Earth Science course,” Oliphant said. “A new eighth grade course has also been developed around the topic of climatology, which integrates both social studies and science topics in a technology-enhanced learning environment.
“Additionally, a new Project Lead the Way module for seventh graders keeps students engaged in the areas of computer modeling, design and robotics,” she added.

MMR results
As explained by Oliphant, the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver request was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in February 2011. As a result of this approval, Minnesota has made a transition to a new system of school recognition, accountability and support and the MMR is at the center of this new system.
As noted, the MMR measures school performance in four different areas:
• Proficiency: Did the school meet its performance target?
• Growth: Did individual students meet their growth target and are students making expected progress?
• Achievement Gap Reduction: Did the school make progress closing the achievement gap for its targeted subgroups?
• Graduation Rate: In the case of high schools, did the school increase its graduation rate?
Each area is worth 25 points, meaning 75 points are possible for elementary and middle schools and 100 points are possible for high schools. The MMR is the percentage of the total number of points earned divided by the total number of points possible.
In addition to the MMR scores, another aspect of the new system are the school designations, which used to be either “failing” or “not failing” under the original provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. As noted, only schools that receive federal Title I funding are eligible to receive a designation from the state.
As well as the “Reward School” designation, other designations include “Celebration Eligible School,” which is bestowed on schools that fall in the 60th to 85th percentile of the top performing schools, and “Priority School,” which is given to the bottom 5 percent of schools based on the four performance measures. The 10 percent of schools with the greatest contribution to state gaps receive the “Focus School” designation.
In 2013, Bayview’s MMR was 98.04 percent (73.54 out of 75 points) and Southview’s MMR was 87.13 percent (65.35 out of 75 points). Both schools received the “Reward School” designation. Bayview has received this designation for four consecutive years and Southview has earned it three out of four years.
Clearwater’s MMR was 70.44 percent (52.83 out of 75 points), which represented an approximate 16 percent decrease from the school’s 2012 MMR of 87.16 percent. The high school’s MMR was 81.22 percent (81.22 out of 100 points), which represents an approximate increase of 28 percent from the schools 2012 MMR (53.17 percent).
Although the middle and high schools’ MMRs are quite different from this year compared to last year, Oliphant noted that one must be somewhat cautious when it comes to examining MMR data.
“One caution of this new system is that small differences in student scores can cause large changes in rank and the number of points a school earns in any one area,” she explained. “This will be especially true for us in the achievement gap domain. Many of our subgroups are small in number, therefore they may have a disproportionate weight on the overall points and rank. A school may experience fluctuations in their MMR from year-to-year depending on the unique characteristics of each class.”
All in all, Oliphant said the district is pleased with its most recent MMR data and school designations.
“We continue to make improvements in academics and programming at all levels. This shows a great commitment on the part of teachers to the growth and success of their students,” she said. “We also want to applaud the hard work, commitment and engagement of our students and families.”

Contact Todd Moen at todd.moen@ecm-inc.com

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