Schools notebook: Test results

Test results show narrower MPS achievement gap

Minneapolis Public Schools leaders said the results of a statewide exam released in September showed the district had narrowed the achievement gap on the tests for the first time in six years, at least on the reading portion of the exam.

When the last two years’ worth of results are considered, minority students made greater gains than their white counterparts on the reading portion of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or MCA–II, administered each spring. So did English-language learners, special education students and students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. District officials cited the results as a sign that strategies to close the achievement gap were working.

The district still lags the state as a whole in student proficiency on both the math and reading exams included in the MCA–II. But Minneapolis students made better-than-statewide gains on the reading exam administered to students in 3–8 and 10, as well as on the math exam taken by students in grade 11.

Districts across the state saw student test scores fall on a new, more difficult version of the math assessment administered to students in grades 3–8.

The percentage of district students who met or exceeded proficiency standards on the reading exam increased to 56 percent in 2011, up from 52 percent in 2010. Statewide, scores improved to 75 percent in 2011, up from 72 percent in 2010.

The portion of Minneapolis students who scored proficient on the math test dropped to 37 percent in 2011 from 45 percent in 2010. Statewide, scores dropped to 56 percent from 65 percent.

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National Merit semifinalists announced

More than 20 students at area schools learned in September they were among the semifinalists in the running for the 2012 National Merit Scholarships to be awarded early next year.

Minneapolis Public Schools announced Tavis Leighton, Abigail Norling-Ruggles, Ellis Runion and Nathan Yeazel of South High School and Harrison Deaver, Keira Jacobs, Christopher Lee-Foss, Holly Stein, Phillip Timmons and Kirsten Wiard-Bauer of Southwest High School were among the roughly 16,000 students nationwide who qualified as semifinalists. Those students were among the highest scorers on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, a test taken by about 1.5 million students each year, according to the National Merit Scholarship Program.

For the third year in a row, The Blake School had the highest percentage of its senior class qualify as semifinalists of any school in the state. Its semifinalists were: Meghan Bauer, Catherine Delattre, Kaitlin Hansen, Grace Jasper, Timothy Juang, Alison McManus, Maxwell Meyers, Ariel O’Neill, Paimon Pakzad, Hannah Rice and Sara Sheffels.

Finalists in the competition will be announced in February, and about 8,300 Merit Scholarships will be awarded between mid-March and June.

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District seeking parent input on city bus pass plan

Minneapolis Public Schools is examining its options for transporting more of its high school-age students to and from class by city bus.

A survey posted on the district website seeks parent, student and community input on expanding the distribution of Metro Transit Go-To Cards to high school students. The district began distributing the pre-paid bus passes to some students in 2009–2010, and district officials consider the effort to have been mostly successful.

Last school year, the district purchased and distributed about 1,280 cards to high school students, but the demand was so high at Washburn High School that Principal Carol Markham-Cousins purchased several dozen additional cards for her students.

The district is considering expansion of the program in part because students at Washburn and elsewhere said riding a city bus instead of a school bus gave them more flexibility to participate in extra curricular activities and to seek academic help before and after school. Students also can use the cards outside of the school day for transportation to work or to meet up with friends.

The district has posted a detailed cost analysis of the program, as well as a link to the survey, at: mpls.k12.mn.us/bus-passes.html#rationale.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.