The Minnesota Department of Education released the results of the state MCA-II science test for school year 2010-11 showing a state average that remained flat from the previous year.


The Minnesota Department of Education released the results of the state MCA-II science test for school year 2010-11 showing a state average that remained flat from the previous year.

Montevideo students showed similar scores compared to recent years with the district average of 51 percent eclipsing the state average of 48 percent.

“I am pleased that Monte scored above the state average and I know we can improve in years to come,” biology teacher Dan Kurkiewicz said. “How­ever, I personally feel that I saw a lot of students last year who were truly excited about coming to biology and learning science, and that is easily forgotten if you attempt to sum up the year based on scores from one test.”

The MCA-II is used to evaluate the quality of science instruction programs in particular schools and the state as a whole. Analyzing the data can also point to specific strengths or weaknesses in a school’s science curriculum.

To monitor students’ learning as they progress through science classes, the state tests students in fifth grade, eighth grade and then again sometime in high school.

When the state tests students in fifth grade, the exam measures all instruction up to that point, not just in that year. Likewise, the eighth-grade exam tests more than just the science class the kids are taking at the time.

“Eighth-graders are tested on all information learned in grades six, seven, and eight,” pointed out science teacher Jill Arnold. “Keep in mind that the test is given in April and eighth-graders are tested on some material that has not yet been covered.” 

For the high school test, the state evaluates students near the end of their biology class, which can be as early as ninth grade, although most students wait until tenth grade. These results, too, might not give schools a complete picture.

Monica Stueck, Monte­video district testing coordinator, will be one of several persons charged with putting these scores into perspective. 

“We’ve always scored above state average at the senior high,” Stueck said. 

Montevideo averaged 56 percent to the state’s 54 percent.

Stueck does caution against relying too heavily on one year’s scores since some classes test better than others. In addition, small test modifications from year to year can affect outcomes, as can numerous snow days breaking up science instruction, which many Minnesota schools faced this past year.

“The 2011 Science MCA-II results, like the NAEP scores and others we’ve seen over the past few months, reinforce our need to approach science and math education with a sense of urgency,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassel­lius said. “While we see some slight gains among some groups of students, they are not enough to ensure all of our kids will be able to compete in a global economy.”