State reading, math and science scores show local districts where best to focus their efforts

Though it really doesn't provide much more than a one-day snapshot of how students are doing academically in schools across the state, the results of the 2014 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests were pretty positive for Becker County schools...

Though it really doesn’t provide much more than a one-day snapshot of how students are doing academically in schools across the state, the results of the 2014 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests were pretty positive for Becker County schools overall.

“As a district, we continue to perform above the state average in all areas - reading, math and science,” says Renee Kerzman, education director for Detroit Lakes Public Schools.

Those are the three curriculum areas that are assessed via the MCA testing process, which is completed in the spring. A portion of the results of those tests was released late last month, with the more complete Multiple Measurement Ratings to be released on Oct. 1.

“We’re satisfied and happy with the proficiency we’ve seen thus far,” Kerzman added. “We have some areas of strength, and some areas to work hard and improve upon.”

For instance, the math results for middle school students (grades 6-8) is “one area that we’re continuing to work on,” Kerzman said, adding that the middle school’s overall proficiency rating in math dropped slightly below the state average this year.


“It’s just a small percentage of students who fell below the state average,” she pointed out. But the staff and administration is “looking at different ways to do some interventions.”

However, as Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke pointed out,
“We’re pretty proud of the achievement of our staff and students on last spring’s MCAs.”

“We had some high spots and some low spots,” said Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Superintendent Lisa Weber, but added, “Overall, the MCAs were pretty good for us… there were only a few data points that I’m really concerned about. The others I’m pretty pleased with - they show overall growth.”

For instance, fifth grade scores in reading and science went up 14 and 3 percentage points, respectively - and the results were even more impressive for middle and high school students.
“In grade 7, they went up 17 percentage points in math, and almost 20 percent in reading,” Weber said. “In grade 8, they went up 10 percent in reading and 12 percent in science.”

Grade 10 also saw a slight improvement in reading scores (1 percent).

“Those were the highlights,” Weber said.

Some areas of concern included the math scores in grades 5, 8 and 11, where scores dropped by 10, 6 and 7 percent, respectively. Grade 6 also saw an 18 percent drop in reading scores overall, and a startling 20 percent decline in math scores.

“That’s very concerning,” Weber said - but added that as a new superintendent, “I’m not going to make assumptions. I’m going to listen to the staff and administration, and spend some time thoroughly investigating what’s not going too well… Everybody has to continue to grow no matter what their issues and challenges are.”


Lake Park-Audubon administrators also saw quite a few positives from the district’s overall MCA performance.

“We were above the target across the board in math, reading and graduation rates,” said LP-A High School Principal Kevin Ricke. “This is our fifth straight year above target (for graduation rates)… In reading, we saw a significant improvement compared to a year ago.

“Our results were consistently better this year for all grade levels and subgroups (special education, free and reduced lunch, etc.). Overall I’m pleased with the direction our results went this year.

“We’re generally very pleased overall with the reading and math, though science was a mixed result, with one grade (scoring) above the state average, and one just below,” Ricke added.

At LP-A Elementary, Principal Sam Skaaland reported that the students had done well in all areas tested.

“We made AYP (adequate yearly progress) in every category and subcategory, and we’ve done that every year for the past nine years,” he said. “We were above the state average in math and science, and right about on the average in reading, as a school.

“To generalize, we feel that we are doing well, though there are always ways to improve. Reading is a particularly important area, and that’s one we want to continue to concentrate on and improve.”

Still, Skaaland said, “We are proud of the fact that we have made AYP every year, in every category.”


Frazee-Vergas also reported both positives and negatives from the MCA results.

“Frazee-Vergas students continue to score above the state average in science,” said Frazee Superintendent Terry Karger. However, he added, “In the areas of math and reading we did not meet our goals in all grade levels.

“As a district we are looking at strategies that will help our students be more successful and ultimately improve our test scores,” Karger continued. “This is a collaborative effort among staff at both the high school and elementary, along with support from the administration and school board.”

Next month will mark the release of the MMR results, which will allow districts to begin analyzing individual student performances and better target which areas are in need of improvement, Kerzman said.

“The MMR takes the same (test) results, but looks more at how far kids have come from year to year, rather than just overall proficiency,” she added.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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