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EDUCATION: On par with the state; Bemidji’s 2014 MCA scores similar to state averages

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji School District's scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) are nearly the same as state averages and show a slight uptick since 2013, according to new data from the state Department of Education.

Mathematics and reading MCA tests were given in grades 3-8, reading tests are given in grade 10 and math tests are given in grade 11 this past spring. The science MCA is given to students in grades 5 and 8 as well as the high school grade when students take a life science or biology course, which may vary.

This year's numbers indicated 61.9 percent of students at Bemidji Area Schools were proficient on the math portion of the MCA-III compared to 58.9 percent in 2013. Reading scores were at 59.6 percent proficiency, compared to 55.9 percent last year. Science scores were at 51.4 percent compared to 46.2 percent last year.

Statewide, public schools averaged 61.4 percent on the math portion, and 59.1 percent in reading 53.2 percent in science.

James Hess, Bemidji Area Schools superintendent, said he was pleased overall with the districts' results.

"As a district, we showed nice improvement," he said. "We can be proud of how we did in reading, math and science."

The district is aiming to further improve scores this coming year with a special focus on math, Hess said.

"We've certainly placed a huge emphasis on math instruction... we have a new math curriculum, new teaching materials, we've hired math specialists that will help us at each of our schools," he said. "We're taking very strong and affirmative action to move ahead in mathematics and help us to continue that growth trend."

Scott Anderson, Schoolcraft Learning Community director, was also pleased at his school's performance, and touted a six-point increase in reading scores, 58 percent to 64.2 percent, for the school, which serves students in grades K-8. There was a large statewide drop in reading scores from 2012 to 2013 following the implementation of tougher standards by the Department of Education.

"I think all schools have kind of adjusted to the higher expectations," he said. "To continue to show the growth that we have, means we're doing things the right way."

The public charter school's math scores held steady from last year. However, Schoolcraft's science scores went down about six points, 67.9 to 61.5 percent.

Skills gap progress is hit-and-miss

Bemidji School District numbers showed a large proficiency gap between American Indian students and white students, roughly the same disparity as in statewide numbers. District-wide reading proficiency for American Indian students went up one point from last year, 33.7 percent to 34.7 percent. However, reading proficiency for American Indian students at Bemidji High School went down 20 points, from 51.4 percent to 31.3 percent.

Hess pointed out that districtwide the school had closed the gap slightly in math scores, which improved in the American Indian subgroup by more than six points.

For more data on this year's MCA results, visit the Department of Education's test scores website at

Area schools results

Here's a breakdown of how local schools performed on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment that was given this past spring. The Bemidji Area Schools' results are nearly the same as state averages and show a slight uptick since 2013.

* Numbers are percentages of proficient students

Bemidji Area Schools (ISD 31)

Elementary schools

• Horace May: Math 68.1, Reading 66.4, Science 71.3

• Lincoln: Math 62.4, Reading 56.7, Science 51

• Central: Math 58.9, Reading 48.3, Science 42.9

• J.W. Smith: Math 60.5, Reading 61.8, Science 50.9

• Paul Bunyan:

• Northern: Math 75.7, Reading 68, Science 59.6

• Solway: Math 66.7, Reading 62, Science 90.3

Middle school

• Math 60.5, Reading 57.1, Science 38.2

High school

• Bemidji Senior: Math 55.1, Reading 62.5, Science 57

Public Charter Schools

• Schoolcraft Learning Community: Math 62.7, Reading 64.2, Science 61.5

• TrekNorth Middle School: Math 36.1, Reading 53.6, Science N/A

• TrekNorth High School: Math 39.1, Reading 66.2, Science 40

• Voyageurs Expeditionary School: Math 5.9, Reading 33.3, Science 0

For more data on this year's MCA results, visit the Department of Education's test scores website at

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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