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Blackduck elementary test scores highest in area

There was no hiding the smile on Blackduck School Superintendent Bob Doetsch's face when he reported the test scores of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs).

Students from grades three-six received a combined test score average of 85 percent in reading and math, 12 percent higher than the state average of 73 percent.

The MCAs measure reading, writing, and mathematics, which help schools track students' progress toward the state's academic standards. Students begin testing in third grade.

Blackduck fourth-grade students averaged a score of 100 percent in math and 98 percent in reading, compared to the state average of 74 percent.

According to Doetsch, the impressive test scores are the result of early academic initiatives set by teachers and parents.

"Early education sets the tone for their academic progress," said Doetsch. "Our goal is by the time the students graduate from kindergarten they will be able to do simple math and read simple books."

Creative teaching strategies have helped students at Blackduck become interested in school work. Students are involved in contests and an accelerated reading program, which increase the amount of reading time from 60 minutes to 90 minutes daily.

Doetsch said he believes limited class size has also played a big role in the students receiving individualized attention. Blackduck elementary school has between 15 and 25 students per class.

To keep class sizes at fewer than 20 students at the kindergarten level, at least 50 children will have to enroll in September for the grade to be split into three sections. Doetsch said he expects to meet that criterion.

Doetsch said he has high hopes of the students continuing to succeed in test scores beyond elementary school and into high school, but he also knows big changes lie ahead. Blackduck is one of four school districts that will be set on a four-day school week for the 2009-10 year.

"It will be a big change, but we look forward to it. With our dedicated teachers and parents I have few worries," Doetsch said.

The following is a list of MCA test score percentage results:

- Bagley - Third-grade math: 81; reading: 82; fourth-grade math: 63; reading: 68; fifth-grade math: 50; reading: 70; sixth-grade math: 51; reading: 74.

- Blackduck - Third-grade math: 91; reading: 84; fourth-grade math: 100; reading: 98; fifth-grade math: 61; reading: 83; sixth-grade math: 83; reading: 78.

- Bemidji (all elementary schools) - Third-grade math: 79; reading: 80; Fourth-grade math: 72; reading: 79; fifth-grade math: 66; reading: 75; sixth-grade math: 48; reading: 69.

- Clearbrook/Gonvick - Third-grade math: 68; reading: 74; fourth-grade math: 61; reading: 90; fifth-grade math: 51, reading: 82; sixth-grade math: 42; reading: 61.

- Kelliher - Third-grade math: 65; reading: 65; fourth-grade math: 69; reading: 62; fifth-grade math: 65, reading: 82; sixth-grade math: 41; reading: 69.

- LaPorte - Third-grade math: 86; reading: 83; fourth-grade math: 50; reading: 61; fifth-grade math: 35; reading: 50; sixth-grade math: 82; reading: 73.

- Northome - Third-grade math: 89; reading: 89; fourth-grade math: 79; reading: 71; fifth-grade math: 50; reading: 63; sixth-grade math: 71; reading: 82.