BLUE EARTH - Testing for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments has changed to allow students some practice runs with the Optional Local Purpose Assessment.
Last year, students could take the MCAs three times and keep the best score. This year, students will take the test once in the spring "and that's the one that counts," says Al Cue, assistant principal for K-8 at Blue Earth Area Schools.
When students took the test multiple times last year, they would get different questions each time, he noted.
"The state had developed a bunch of test questions; a huge bank of test questions," Cue said. "They offer these questions to schools as practice for the MCA."
Schools can elect not to have students take practice tests, or the kids can take them two or three times.
"Blue Earth Area has elected to do OLPA," Cue said, "and left it up to the individual grade levels."
The practice tests will be available for third- through eighth-graders.
"Most of the grades will take it one time," Cue said. "Some will take it more than one round."
He said the latest numbers available show that about 58,000 Minnesota students have taken at least one test as of last week.
"One benefit is immediate:?the next-day results help instructors between the practice tests and the MCAs in the spring," Cue said.
The MCAs are an important "measuring stick," he said, "to give the school and parents an idea of the progress of the child.
"We use them to help guide our instruction," he said. "Schools that receive Title I funding from the government have to take MCAs."
Because the practice tests are new, Cue has no information on whether they are effective in assisting kids get better scores, but being able to take the test multiple times last year "seemed to be beneficial to those who didn't pass the first time. Some kids passed the second or third time that didn't pass the first."
There's always room for improvement.
"We've been all over the place [with scores]," Cue said. "There are years and grade levels that do well. We've had very good scores and some scores we need to improve."
He says if the practice tests help students, they are a useful tool.
"I think it's a great opportunity ahead of time to see students' strengths and weaknesses in areas we can try to improve," he said.