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MCA Testing

posted Mar 31, 2016, 3:28 PM by Brenda Williams
The MCA’s are upon us. As this article goes to print, our students will have started in on their annual journey in showcasing their academic abilities through standardized tests. As educators, we live every day in the language, concepts and a deeper understanding of the need for this stretch of the school year. We also work with full knowledge of the fact that many households struggle to see the relevance in shifting precious classroom time toward a state test. I feel it is critical that we revisit the foundation of why our district sees strategic value in these assessments and that we, as a school, help our households to see that value as well.

To provide a basic understanding of the test series itself, we will take an excerpt from the Minnesota Department of Education webpage ( The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment is a test series that takes an analytical look at student achievement relative to the common core. Students throughout state will be taking standardized assessments relative to Reading (grades 3-8 and 10), Math (grades 3-8 and 11) and Science (grades 5, 8 and High School).

Why testing? There has been a dramatic shift in education over the course of the last decade. The concept of “accountability” for schools has led to a data-driven model for education. The education that many of our readers earned is far different today’s version of best practice teaching. Gone are the days of “sit and get” lectures being the norm. Today’s focus is on evidence of student learning. In the classroom, if data indicates that students are not grasping a concept, we as educators, have the moral responsibility to take the steps necessary to ensure that students can truly demonstrate understanding. Again, gone are the days of “not getting it” and simply moving on to the next topic.

The MN Department of Education, District 186, and Pequot Lakes Middle School value testing as a tool to measure student achievement. There are two basic types of assessments. Those that are “formative” and those that are “summative”. State tests are given to students in a district once a year, based on their grade level and subject area. Classroom tests are given by individual teachers on a more regular basis and may include quizzes, mid-terms, chapter tests, and final exams, among others. Both types of tests give educators an idea of how well their students are learning the concepts presented to them in the classroom. Though classroom measures can be immediately acted upon by our staff, state assessments provide districts with a longitudinal data set that helps to drive not only the day-to-day instruction, but also provides information to help make the K-12 experience as a whole, more complete and in alignment with state and federal expectations. Assessment and accountability are most likely not going away. With that said, it is also important that our schools partner with our households to set our children up for success.

How can you help your child do their best? Here are some helpful hints starting at home:

1. It is imperative that you stand alongside our staff in championing our kids. Encourage them to take testing seriously, as this data is a major factor in the formula for your child’s experience in school.

2. Make sure your kid gets enough rest during the month of April. Nutrition is vital; remind your child to take part in our free breakfast program.

3. Share your academic journey with a child. Help them to understand the importance of a solid foundation in education.

4. There is no “cramming” that can occur for these tests. Again, just simply encourage your child to do their best.

At school, trust that our staff have vested interest in your student’s performance. Our staff have strategically prepared our students academically and have been coaching your student to be all they can be. We have worked hard to make sure that your student is getting a high quality experience, and that their coursework showcases it. We are rooting for your child right alongside our households.

The transition to Spring brings a multitude of change to PLMS. We are coming out of an exciting Winter season and look forward to the transition to the end of the year. With only a handful of weeks left in the year our school year we cannot downplay the importance of these last months. Please join our schools in cheering our kids on to doing their best and helping our community to have another reason to be proud to be a Patriot.

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal