The Kenyon-Wanamingo School District showed adequate results on the 2018-19 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA), but Superintendent Jeff Pesta believes these scores provides just a small snapshot of students’ overall performance.
In K-W Schools as a whole, 45% met or exceeded proficiency in math and 54% met or exceeded proficiency in English. That’s not quite average — statewide, 54% of students are proficient in math while 59% are proficient in reading.
“It’s a part of the picture, but we’re trying to put it in perspective,” said Pesta. “Our worth or any district’s worth are not based on MCA scores.”
Throughout the year, K-W Schools students do benchmark testing so teachers can view each individual’s progress. MCA tests, on the other hand, compare one cohort of students to a different cohort from the previous year.
Pesta has noticed, however, that MCA testing has shown the district what staff is doing well in certain areas. Since the 2017-18 results came in, the fourth grade adopted a new reading program for the 2018-19 academic year. Although Pesta said it usually takes a while before results become evident, he noted a change from 38 to 43% of students proficient in reading as fourth-graders.
The place where the MCA data is the most informative, said Pesta, is on the middle school level. Math proficiency is what he called a “chronic challenge” at K-W Middle School, as indicated by MCA results as well as the benchmark testing conducted throughout the year. The math proficiency average at K-W Middle School overall is 44%, but seventh-grade alone saw a slight improvement from 73 to 75% average proficiency.
To mitigate students’ struggling math performances, two K-W High School math teachers who Pesta said “have a proven track record of being successful” are now teaching middle school students.
“That’s a significant shift to bring those high school teachers down the hallway to break that stalemate on math,” said Pesta.
While math scores at the middle school indicated a trend that needed fixing, Pesta said most other dropped scores could be anomalies. He especially attributes any lower scores to school cancellations, which disrupted the students’ testing calendar as well as lessons. Students were also allowed to start and stop the tests over the course of a few days, and he theorized their attitude became one of simply wanting to finish.
“I think they’ll bounce back again,” said Pesta. “They have a long track record of doing well otherwise.”
Minnesota’s North Star accountability system recognizes schools in need of additional support to help students succeed, but K-W Schools aren’t in need of this offering.
Testing scores aside, K-W High School was recognized for having a 90% four-year graduation rate, one of the highest in the state.
“Our students have a lot of different backgrounds and goals for what they want to do after high school, but they all share the common goal of wanting to graduate,” said Pesta.
Many students prepare for graduation by taking the ACT test, which according to Pesta result in above-average scores. The stakes are higher for these tests, which could determine if a student can get into the college of their choice.
“They see the value in graduating, and they don’t always share the same importance of what an MCA score is,” said Pesta. “The high stakes nature on the [MCA] test isn’t matching up with the value students and families place on them.”