Duluth public schools: Math scores fall, reading improvesDuluth schools scored extreme highs and extreme lows on 2012 state tests for reading and math.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth schools scored extreme highs and extreme lows on 2012 state tests for reading and math.
The Minnesota Department of Education released student performance data today, along with graduation test scores in reading, math and writing.
On the high end: Nearly 99 percent of Congdon Park Elementary fifth-graders are proficient or beyond in reading. On the low end: Only 14 percent of Laura MacArthur fifth-graders met or partially met math standards. The statewide averages for fifth-graders in reading and math are roughly 79 percent and 62 percent proficient, respectively.
The scores tell only part of the story.
At the end of the month, the state will show the data in a new way, revealing growth in reading and math and progress at narrowing the achievement gap at each school that isn’t reflected in this set of scores.
Reading results throughout the Duluth district show that intervention work is paying off, said Tawnyea Lake, director of performance, evaluation and assessments for the Duluth school district. Reading interventions are further along than those for math, she said, but the hope is that math will progress the same way.
“Standards at the state level have changed so much for math, and we’re trying to get our head around those with what we do in the classroom,” said Ed Crawford, assistant superintendent for the district. “Are we satisfied with where we are? No, we’re not. But we’re in a good spot to build. We’ve got a good road map.”
The data the state releases in a few weeks will help schools figure out where they need to direct the most help, he said.
Statewide, scores were up for grades three through eight in math, and up overall for reading. Math scores for grade 11 declined.
Minnesota received a waiver this year from the strictest federal No Child Left Behind mandates, replacing them with new measures that it thinks better gauge student performance. For example, said state education department Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, today’s results won’t show the progress of a fifth-grader who read last year at a second-grade level and this year at a fourth-grade level. The next round of data-crunching will show that.
But today’s results are important, she said, because “it’s a good systems check for schools, for hitting the bar. The information at the end of the month will help them with instruction.”
Laura MacArthur, which has been named a priority school under new state measures — or in the bottom-scoring 5 percent of low-income schools that receive federal money — will have a new plan in place in September to improve achievement.
“This whole summer, Laura MacArthur staff have been working very hard on their school improvement plan,” Lake said. “When that comes out, you will see there are some significant efforts being made in both math and reading very different from what we’re doing district-wide — way more targeted and intensive. We’re excited to roll that out.”
Overall, Lake noted, Laura MacArthur saw increased results, especially within the special education group.
Both Denfeld and East high school sophomores had better-than-average reading numbers, but the schools’ juniors had poor math scores. Harbor City International students followed that pattern.
Middle school students at Morgan Park, Woodland and Edison’s Northstar Academy also had poor to average math scores. Reading scores were much better, especially at Woodland and Northstar Academy.
Along with reading, Congdon Park had high math results among grades three through five and was the only Duluth elementary school with each of those grades around 80 percent proficient or higher. But several other elementary schools had high levels of reading proficiency, including Homecroft, Lakewood, Lester Park and Northstar Academy.
Notable among test results for the Duluth district was a socioeconomic pattern, with students in areas of higher average household income generally scoring better, especially in math, than those in lower-income areas.
Poverty is a major challenge for students, Crawford said, and schools are aware of that as they work with students. Community partnerships are being developed for such efforts as increased after-school tutoring to help low-income students, Lake said.
East, Denfeld and Harbor City students did well on graduation reading and writing tests, which students must pass to graduate.
The math portion, which students at all three schools had less success with, isn’t a requirement for graduation. Students who fail can take it twice more; if they fail again, they must get help. If that’s done, students still can graduate without passing the test. Crawford said many students who get help after failing the math test once have worked with data coaches and have had a higher rate of passing it on the next attempt.