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Management Analysis

Student Assessment Tests

Why this is important
It is vital that students are adequately prepared for post-high school education and acquire knowledge and skills needed to join a workforce. There is increased pressure to fill the workforce as baby-boom era workers are expected to retire in large numbers during the next decade.  In particular, reading skills are necessary for life-long learning in all fields and life-long math skills are necessary due to the increasing reliance on technology.

About this measure
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-Series II (MCA-II’s) are standardized tests conducted every year in Minnesota schools.  They are designed to measure student achievement in the state’s academic standards. These standards define what students should know and be able to do in a particular grade.  Reading assessments are administered in grades three through eight and again in grade 10.  Math assessments are administered in grades three through eight and again in grade 11.  Each student earns a score in one of four achievement levels: Does Not Meet Standards, Partially Meets Standards, Meets Standards, or Exceeds Standards. 

In 2011, 8th grade students started taking mathematics MCA-III (an assessment aligned with the 2010 Minnesota Academic standards), instead of a MCA-II.  Similarly, in 2013, 3rd grade students switched from taking reading MCA-II to MCA-III.  Because MCA-II and MCA-III assessment specifications are different, users are strongly cautioned against comparing data or drawing conclusions about achievement between the two assessments.

Notes: Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is often a predictor for future academic and life success. Through third grade most students are learning to read, but in fourth grade they begin "reading to learn" - to gain information and think critically in all other subject areas. About three-fourths of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school. Student with limited reading skills are also more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, repeat a grade, and eventually drop out of school.

The ability to perform higher math skills is becoming increasingly important in the technology-driven world we live in today. Proficiency in 8th grade math measures whether schools are doing a good job of equipping students with the math skills they need to succeed in today's global economy.

What the data show
Students attending school in Dakota County outpaced students in the Twin Cities metropolitan area in standard tests.  In particular, the percent of students who achieved and exceeded the 3rd grade reading standard and 8th grade math standard has consistently been higher compared to the Twin Cities area.

The percent of 3rd grade students who achieved or exceeded the reading standard peaked in 2006 at 87% and has been above 80% up to 2012. In 2013, students took the 3rd grade reading MCA-III for the first time.  The percent of students who achieved or exceeded 3rd grade reading standards was 63% and 57% in Dakota County and the Twin Cities metro, respectively.  

In 2013, comparing individual Twin Cities metropolitan-area counties, the percentage of 3rd grade students achieving the reading standard in Dakota County schools was 63% compared to Carver County (69%) and Washington County (64%).

student-assessment2014.jpgThe percent of 8th grade students in Dakota County showed a stable level for achieving or exceeding standards in math (MCA-II) scores from 2006 (62%) to 2010 (62%). In 2011, 8th grade students started to take the math MCA-III.  There was in improvement in math scores between 2011 (56%) and 2013 (61%).

In 2013, 8th grade math scores for students in Dakota County schools (61%) were next to the two leading counties: Washington (71%) and Carver (77%). For more, information see

Notes: MCA-II and MCA-III are different tests. Students are asked to do completely different types of tasks on the MCA-III, which is a much more challenging and difficult test.  The 2011 8th grade math and 3rd grade reading scores are used as baseline measures rather than seeing it as a drop in test scores.


Last updated: 5/15/2014 6:26 AM