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MCA scores demonstrate need for continued support

As expected, results from the latest Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments show a decline in the number of Stillwater Area Public School students meeting or exceeding grade level standards during the 2020-2021 school year. It’s a trend seen across the state and nation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While concerning, the results are not a surprise, as we knew the many disruptions to learning caused by COVID would have an impact on our students,” said Dr. Jennifer Cherry, the district’s assistant superintendent. “Our priority this year will be to reconnect with our students as they come back in-person to accelerate learning and provide the social-emotional and mental health support they need." 

The MCA tests measure students’ progress toward state academic standards in science, mathematics and reading. Learn more about the assessments. The tests were not administered in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but were given again in the spring of 2021. The Minnesota Department of Education has cautioned school districts against comparing the 2021 results to previous years or trend data, calling them an outlier due to the many challenges of COVID. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, many students moved between learning models - from hybrid to distance to in-person -  as statewide and local COVID conditions necessitated.  Others remained in distance learning throughout the entire school year. The state required all students who participated in statewide testing to test in person, which impacted participation rates. In Stillwater schools, about 25% of students eligible to test (nearly 1,000 students) did not take the exams in 2021. 

“Our students and staff have been on a rollercoaster ride the past two school years,” Dr. Cherry said. “We lost valuable instruction time at the beginning of the pandemic, and throughout the past year they’ve endured numerous learning model changes, adapted to new technologies, and been under tremendous physical, social and emotional stress. We have a lot of ground to make up and we are committed to helping get our students back on track in the years ahead.”

Despite a decline, Stillwater students continued to perform above the state average in 2021:

  • In reading, 56.24% of all Stillwater students were proficient compared to 52.5% at the state.
  • In math, 53.38% of all Stillwater students were proficient while the state average was 44.22%.
  • In science, 49.84% of all Stillwater students were proficient compared to 43.14% of students across the state.

District and school administrators will work with teachers in the coming weeks to explore the data to better understand what concepts students understand and in what areas they may need to enhance their instruction. A variety of training and professional development opportunities will be provided to teachers to support them in the areas of literacy, math and social-emotional learning.

More information about student achievement results will be shared during a report to the school board at the September 9 meeting. The meeting will be broadcast live on YouTube beginning at 6 p.m. 


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