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GRAD test results mixed-bag for area districts

Test results are in for the MCA-II exams that high schoolers around the state took this spring.

The results for a couple of area schools are tracking above the statewide average thus far.

For high school juniors, a lot was riding on the math portion of the exams. There is essentially a test within a test as the Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma exam is part of the MCA-II.

The Class of 2010 was the first class where passing the GRAD or achieving proficiency on MCA-II's was required to graduate.

That requirement is not the case anymore, since the legislature changed graduation requirements and students can graduate even if they don't pass those tests.

Students will still need to complete other graduation requirements, take the MCA-II up to three times in trying to pass and also receiving remedial education.

Lake Park-Audubon High School Principal Kevin Ricke said that it's hard to require a passing score on the math GRAD exam when there isn't enough historical data to go on.

"You have nothing to compare it to," Ricke said.

Down the line, Ricke said, the state and districts will get a better idea of what they need to do to prepare students for the exam.

Detroit Lakes students bested the state average on both the 10th-grade reading and 11th-grade math GRAD portion of the MCA-II.

Compared to the state average of 74 percent passing the reading test, 80 percent of students in the district passed. Detroit Lakes students passed in greater numbers than the state average on the math exam with 60 percent of students passing locally compared with 57 percent statewide.

Freshman at Detroit Lakes High School scored at near the state average with 88 percent passing the writing test. The state average was 89 percent.

Detroit Lakes' percentages include Alternative Learning Center students.

Math results jumped from 2008-09 when only 28 percent were deemed proficient. Students did not have to meet proficiency last year in math in order to graduate.

Superintendent Doug Froke said that students this year had motivation in taking the test and that could account for the jump.

"These kids were operating under the idea that you have to pass this to graduate," Froke said.

Froke said that there is a difference between proficiency and passing. Proficiency last year meant that students scored within a certain range instead of just reaching a bar, as was the case this year.

Lake Park-Audubon's results were mixed compared to the state average.

On the reading test, 67 percent of students passed - 12 percentage points lower than the state average. The math test was on the flip side as 64 percent of juniors passed the test. Ninth graders taking the writing exam did well as a whole with 96 percent of students passing.

Ricke said that one student accounts for two percentage points because each grade has about 50 students.

He said that a good portion of the students who didn't pass the tests, especially with reading, were already on the school's radar.

"We do have students that receive individualized services to a degree," Ricke said.

The LP-A district contracts with Detroit Lakes for ALC services because hiring a dedicated reading or math specialist is difficult to justify to such a small district, Ricke said.

Frazee-Vergas' students were close to the state average with 88 percent of ninth graders passing the writing test, 77 percent of 10th graders passing the reading test and 57 percent of 11th graders passing the math exam.

"That makes me feel pretty good with what we're doing here," said Frazee High School Principal Brian Koslofsky.

The district has a remediation plan in place, especially for those students entering their senior year of high school. There will be an online component to help students in areas that they are struggling in.

Koslofsky said that the test results pinpoint what an individual student's strengths and weaknesses are.

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth's ninth-graders did well in the writing test, scoring 89 percent.

But in reading and math, the scores dropped off.

About 60 percent of 10th-grade students passed the reading test. Only 30 percent of 11th-graders passed the math exam.

Superintendent Mitch Anderson said that a good percentage of students who failed the math exam scored between 40 and 50 percent. The passing score is 50 percent, Anderson said.

An issue coming up during the next school is remedial training. Anderson said it would be difficult to figure out how to prepare students for remedial tutoring, especially when there is a limited amount of time until the new senior class has to retake the math exam if they didn't pass it in the first go-around.

"That flaw is the dilemma of the system," Anderson said. "There isn't enough time to do anything with them."

GRAD results

9th-grade writing 10th-grade reading 11th-grade math

Detroit Lakes 88% 79% 61%

Frazee-Vergas 88% 77% 57%

Lake Park-Audubon 96% 67% 64%

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth 89% 60% 30%

State average 89% 74% 57%