August 10, 2017

Minnesota MCA Results Were Flat (Again). Where Do We Go From Here?

This Monday, when MDE released the 2017 MCA results, I was hoping for the best: Big gains in math and reading for all students, especially those most historically underserved. But I was also prepared for a more realistic outcome. Over the last several years, statewide scores and achievement gaps have remained relatively unchanged, with the exception of a few dips here and a handful of upticks there. This Monday’s results were all too familiar. Predictable. Frustrating. Our education system is still failing to help tens of thousands of students read and do math at grade-level.

But if we look beyond the headlines and statewide trends, there’s data that can help us move forward in a way that’s meaningful for kids. Because in 2017, a handful of schools across the state did move the needle: As MPR reports, in reading, 12 percent of schools cut achievement gaps in half for all racial groups, as well as English Learners and students from low-income families. In math, 14 percent of schools met that same mark.

If we don’t want to feel frustrated once again this time next year, we need to figure out what educators in those bright spots are doing differently and help other schools use similar strategies. How are these changing-the-odds schools engaging families? How are they helping educators develop and grow? How are they making education interesting and relevant for students? We need to ask these questions and many more.

Then, as parents and educators, we need to call for our schools to adopt the practices that seem to be working. As advocates and taxpayers, we need to ask our policymakers to remove barriers standing in the way of more schools replicating those best practices, and great schools becoming even greater.

It’s time to learn from schools that are doing things differently—and well—and replicate their success with the urgency that Minnesota students need and deserve.

In the meantime, as the debate about the value of the MCA inevitably continues, let’s keep our sights set on why we have them in the first place. As a parent, I expect that my kids’ schools will prepare them to hit key milestones in reading and math so that they’re on track for success in college or career. Whether their schools are knocking it out of the park for all kids, or just for some kids, or whether they’re far behind other schools in my community and across the state, I want to know that, too.

The MCA is the only statewide assessment that allows for this kind of apples-to-apples comparison, helping us identify which schools need more support and which schools can lead the way in changing the odds for students across the state.

This is why we have the MCA. It’s time to put the 2017 results to work.