Hibbing educators applaud test results

/ 12 June 2012 / jennifer

Anna Kurth Assistant, Hibbing Daily Tribune, June 12, 2012 –

HIBBING — Hibbing educators worked all school year to improve student scores on state standardized tests.

This spring they say they’re pleased with the results.

Based on math scores released to the district electronically, Hibbing has made double digit improvements in proficiency in grades three through eight, said Superintendent Robert Belluzzo.

“People worked really hard at it,” he said. “I think we made some pretty good progress.”

Gains were expected both due to efforts in district and to a change in the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test delivery system for math.

The test was administered electronically, and districts were able to administer the test up to three times with remediation in between testing.

Lincoln Elementary School Principal Bob Bestul said he was impressed by growth among individual students from last year and between tests this spring.

Test results were instantly available to teachers after students finished the exam, so teachers were immediately able to respond to any deficiencies, Bestul said.

Having those results quickly helped teachers to meet students’ needs this school year, instead of trying to play catchup in the fall, he said.

“That was the biggest complaint from educators (in the past),” Bestul said. “It’s difficult to improve on something if you don’t know where to improve.”

But early access to test scores wasn’t the only reason for improvements. Bestul credited teachers for their efforts to align curriculum to the state standards.

“That was our focus from day one,” he said.

The teachers took the test, analyzed which standards the questions aligned with and then implemented those standards into the curriculum, he said.

“That made a big difference,” he said. “That was the key to this — no question.”

Math proficiency rates in grade 11 increased by 1 percent, but high school Principal Mike Finco pointed out that 70 percent of students passed the GRAD portion of the exam. That’s an increase of 18 percent from last year.

The GRAD portion measures what a graduate from a Minnesota high school should know. Students aren’t required by the state to actually pass the test before graduation, but the Hibbing district will require a passing score from students beginning with the class of 2013.

The school is also implementing a new grading system in fall that will require students to work harder to get a higher grade point average, he said.

The focus on reading at the junior high level also helped the seventh and eighth graders achieve their gains in math.

Enhanced reading skills help students to enlarge their math vocabulary, Finco said.

“I think this whole thing has refocused our staff to be better standards-based teachers,” he said. “… Now they know what it takes to get these kids ready to take this test.”

He added that this year’s testing gains will help motivate student and teachers going forward because it shows the result of hard work.

Administrators are eager to receive results in reading.

The reading MCA test was delivered using pen and paper, so the results were not automatically available.

Most of the district’s improvement efforts centered on reading because the district’s rating under the old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) system required it to develop a plan to improve student reading scores.

Results in reading will be released to school officials and the public later this summer.

Because of this late release, Hibbing educators haven’t spent too much time talking about goals for next year, Belluzzo said.

“One of our goals is to continue to improve, and that’s going to be extremely difficult because we worked really hard this year to keep everybody motivated.

“… We kept up a really intense level of teaching throughout the whole year. Now we can’t just say we’re done with that — now we have to build on that and that’s going to be a challenge.”

Anna Kurth can be reached at akurth@hibbingdailytribune.net.