Why this is important
It is important that students are adequately prepared for post-high school education and obtain knowledge and skills needed to join the 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 — and the leading edge of the baby-boom generation has already reached retirement age. 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. Students 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 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. The achievement level remains the same in 2014.
In 2014, Dakota County schools ranked fourth in 3rd grade reading (63%) among counties in the metropolitan area, compared to Carver County (68%), Scott County (66%) and Washington County (65%).
Eighth grade students in Dakota County showed a stable level of achievement in math (MCA-II) scores between 2006 and 2010. In 2011, 8th grade students started to take the math MCA-III. There was an improvement in math scores between 2011 (56%) and 2014 (65%).
In 2014, Dakota County schools ranked fourth in 8th grade math (65%) among counties in the metropolitan area, compared to Carver County (75%), Washington County (74%) and Scott County (72%). For more information, see http://www.mncompass.org.
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 MCA-III scores are better used as baseline measures rather than considering them as a drop in test scores.