Test scores not only factorPublished 9:48am Thursday, August 29, 2013 Updated 11:49am Thursday, August 29, 2013
The annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results for 2013 went public recently, and as is often the case, Fergus Falls Public Schools scored below state averages in math, science and reading. Fergus Falls also scored below Ashby, Battle Lake, Henning, New York Mills, Perham-Dent and West Central Area schools in all three categories.
But before anyone begins pointing fingers and putting down teachers, students and administrators, it is important to step back and understand why Fergus Falls often comes up short as a district when it comes to standardized testing. Fergus Falls offers programs for students who may be on the edge of dropping out. The Alternative Learning Center brings in students from surrounding communities, and IQ Academy takes students from all over the state. While there is value to standardized testing, MCA test results at a glance are not enough to draw an accurate, fair judgement on a district’s academic performance.
The School Board, administrators and teachers have made a considerable effort to bring in many students who will ultimately lower district test scores. For many students, the ALC and IQ Academy are last-chance options for students who, in other schools, would just give up on an education. Fergus Falls residents are lucky to live in a community that puts a greater emphasis on educating as many students as possible than trying to look better on paper.
Standardized testing still has value, and it is important to keep teachers and students focused on core classes. The MCAs can act as a motivator for teachers, but overall district results should not used as a grade for anyone. More specific breakdowns of the tests tell a different story. It hurts to see that not one of the 18 ALC students who took the math portion of the MCA test scored proficient or above, yet teachers still work with these students, and they are part of District 544. Kennedy Secondary School, however, scored above state averages in science and reading and came within 1 percent in math.
While there is always room for improvement, teachers, administrators, students and area residents have no reason to fret over the 2013 MCA results. Fergus Falls Public Schools have made moves in the right direction when it comes to educating students in the area, and ironically, test scores have taken a hit as a result.