Minnetonka students continue to excel academically by scoring among the top districts in the state on the MCA-II (Minnesota Comprehension Assessment) reading test and the MCA-III math test. Overall, 92 percent of Minnetonka students are proficient in reading and 85 percent are proficient in math. In Metro area rankings, Minnetonka students are #1 in math and a close second to Edina in reading. Scores exceeded the state totals of 76 percent proficiency in reading and 62 percent proficiency in math.
“In Minnetonka, we are really focused on student growth—meeting each child at his/her learning level and inspiring higher levels of achievement,” said Minnetonka Superintendent Dennis Peterson. “Under the direction of our highly qualified teachers, we believe there is no limit to what the human mind can learn. Setting high expectations for all students and supporting their growth regardless of their learning level, yields strong results. We have seen similar gains on other local and nationally-normed assessments. For example, our NWEA scores indicate that at the end of fifth grade, the average Minnetonka student is reading at the 11th grade level. When we focus on students and student learning, strong state test scores will follow.”
In comparing Minnetonka to Metro area schools, Minnetonka students performed better than any other district, with the highest percent proficient in math and the second highest percent proficient in reading.
Top Five Metro Districts in Math
Top Five Metro Districts in Reading
Minnetonka Middle Schools were exceptionally strong. East (MME) with 87 percent proficient in math and 91 percent proficient in reading ties West (MMW) in math and leads by only two percentage points in reading. They lead both Edina middle schools, all three Wayzata middle schools (except Wayzata Central in math with 88 percent), and all Eden Prairie and Hopkins middle, Jr. high and intermediate schools.
At the high school level, Minnetonka—with 71 percent proficient in math and 94 percent proficient in reading—trails Edina in math and reading by one percentage point, ties Wayzata in math and leads in reading by one point, and leads both Eden Prairie and Hopkins high schools.
Gains in Math
The MCA III is a rigorous test designed for the high graduation standards in math, including all students completing Algebra by eighth grade and mastering Higher Algebra II/Trigonometry skills in order to graduate high school.
In recent years, Minnetonka has focused on raising math achievement (video link) and the gains have been significant; but this year’s gains are even more significant than past years, in part due to a change in test administration guidelines. For 2012, the State allowed students in grades 3 – 8* an opportunity to retake the test within a defined testing window, waiting at least 14 days between attempts. In Minnetonka, students who were within 5 points of the next level of proficiency were invited to retake the math exam one time. “If we really focus on student learning, a student who is close to the standard and is able to work on the concepts and retake the exam will be more motivated to learn at higher levels in the future. Learning more and proving he or she can be successful will breed future success for that student,” shared Dr. Peterson. “It is only in K-12 schooling that we have historically given students only one chance to demonstrate their learning before they are asked to move on to the next topic; this is not good practice. Even lawyers and accountants may retake their licensing exam, if they fall short the first time. Our emphasis needs to be on measuring the learning, not just testing. It is a subtle but important difference.”
In Minnetonka elementary and middle school math options are differentiated to challenge students at their level and allow them to excel. Elementary students may accelerate in math beginning in fourth grade. Sixth grade students may enroll in sixth grade math, pre-algebra or algebra and by eighth grade about ten percent of students will complete higher algebra II (traditionally an eleventh grade course).
At the high school, diagnostic testing pinpoints student proficiency by content, so instruction can be targeted to fill foundational gaps and move students to their next level. Minnetonka teachers have video podcasts of lessons for students to review or relearn specific formulas or functions in math, in addition to before and after school help programs. An area of growth can be seen in the eleventh grade math results. In 2007, only half of students met state standards. In 2012, 71 percent of students have met or exceeded the standards, with 40 percent achieving at the state’s highest level. To keep up with rising levels of math achievement developed in the lower grades, Minnetonka High School has increased the number of sections in AP and IB math courses and added Multi-variable Calculus for our most motivated and adept math students.
Adding support for struggling learners, the District has seen strong success with Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies for elementary and middle school reading and math. RtI relies on early identification and intense intervention for learners who struggle, but who do not qualify for special education or Title I services. Achieving success in reading shows students they can be successful in all other subjects, since reading and writing are the foundation for most learning.
Students in grades 3-8 are required to take both the reading and math tests. At the high school level ninth graders take the writing GRAD test; 10th graders take the reading test and 11th graders take the math test. The GRAD component of the high school tests in reading, math and writing are high-stakes tests required for graduation.
The MCA-IIs, introduced in 2006, are the state tests in reading, mathematics and science that meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. These tests are given every year to measure student performance on the Minnesota Academic Standards, which define what our students should know and do in a particular grade. The mathematics MCA-III is the new math test that replaces the mathematics MCA-II for grades 3–8. The MCA-IIIs were introduced in 2011 and are designed to meet higher standards including all students completing Algebra by eighth grade and mastering Higher Algebra II/Trigonometry skills in order to graduate high school. Results from the MCA-II and the successor MCA-III series should not be compared because they are aligned to different standards.
*[Note: High School students did not have opportunity to retake the math MCA within the testing window reported in these scores. High school students may retake at a later time in an attempt to pass the required GRAD portion of the test.]
All students are required to take the GRAD writing (9), reading (10), and math (11) test in order to earn a diploma from any Minnesota public high school. Students may retake the test until they pass. Students must pass the writing and reading tests to graduate. The State Legislature softened the requirement for the state math test, requiring students to complete remediation and retest, but not requiring students to pass. The high-stakes test is controversial because Minnesota’s math standards are more rigorous than many other states.