District MCA averages remain above state averages in all subject areas, but district sees dip in proficiency and participation rate

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White Bear Lake Area Schools’ average proficiency rates remained above the State rates in all subject areas for Spring 2021, with Reading scores at 56%, Math scores at 45% and Science scores at 47%. WBLAS grade 5 had the highest proficiency rate in Reading (68%), Grade 3 in Math (57%) and Grade 5 in Science (54%).

“This data reaffirms the hunch we had early on, when we could see that the pandemic was disrupting student learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak. “Anticipating challenges being created by COVID-19, our staff members began conversations and plans during 2020-21 that focused on learning recovery for students. Targeted support for each of our students has always been important, but it has gained even more significance over the last 18 months in these uncertain times.”

Throughout last year, building and district teams worked to adjust instruction and intervention to meet the needs of students who were learning at home and/or returned to in-person learning. In addition, WBLAS coordinated and implemented a robust set of summer programming for a wide variety of students in grades K-12. Over the summer, teams of teachers and administrators worked together to plan for content, credit, and grade recovery, particularly at the high school level.

“The complete picture of each student will inform instruction in the 2021-2022 school year,” said Kazmierczak. “In addition to MCA data, our district will utilize local academic measures, including data such as academic and social-emotional screeners, Pre-ACT and ACT, academic grades and credits.”

In line with state-wide data, White Bear Lake Area Schools had significantly fewer students participate in MCA/MTAS this year compared to 2019. For example, overall WBLAS had a Math MCA/MTAS participation rate of 99% in 2019 and 72% in 2021. The drop in participation ranged from 12 percentage points at fourth grade to 55 percentage points at eleventh grade. WBLAS had the highest participation in grade 4 (85%) and the lowest in grade 11 (32%). Reading MCA/MTAS followed a similar pattern, albeit with a slightly higher participation rate overall. The drop in reading MCA/MTAS participation ranged from -12% at grade 4 to -31% in grade 8. WBLAS had the highest participation in grade 4 (86%) and the lowest participation in grade 8 (66%). In all cases, the elementary grades had higher participation than the secondary grades.

In addition to state-wide assessments, the district relies on a variety of data points to ensure students are learning and growing. The district’s internal screening data shows that after a dip during the winter of 2021, when the majority of students were in a distance learning model, students gained ground in the spring 2021 when the majority of students were back to an in-person learning model. 

“Our local data, which help us gauge where our students are academically and social-emotionally in a more comprehensive way, are an important part of our multi-tiered systems of support,” said Dr. Alison Gillespie, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. “Not only do our local measures give us a more complete picture of each of our students, they also give a more accurate picture of our student body at-large because more of our students participate in our local assessments than do in the formal statewide assessments.”

The number of students who participated in district-level assessments during the 2020-21 school year is significantly higher than those who participated in state-level assessments. For instance, 5,325 students in grades K-8 were screened locally in reading skills in the spring of 2021, while 3,110 district students took the MCA reading test in grades 3-8. Approximately 30% of students who were screened locally were identified as needing additional support in reading skills at their grade level, as compared to 46% who scored below the proficiency threshold of the MCA assessment.

Building teams will spend time analyzing the data from the 2020-21 school year and the data they collect from academic and social-emotional screeners in the fall to evaluate the needs of students, some of whom are returning to in-person learning for the first time since March of 2020, and adjust instruction and intervention accordingly.

“We are committed to helping our students learn every year, but we know it is especially important in the midst of the disruption students and families have worked through since the spring of 2020,” Kazmierczak said. “We will use all of the tools at our disposal, both at the state and district-levels to support our students’ learning.”

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