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Officials: State tests scores drop in Wrenshall

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests showed the continued effects of the pandemic's learning gap on Wrenshall students, officials said.

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Wrenshall School Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune
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WRENSHALL — An update from the testing coordinator at the Wrenshall School District During a committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, May 11, showed a drop in state level testing from students, likely caused by the learning gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Test is the test in question, and Sheri Fossen, Wrenshall's assessment coordinator, told the board there was a lot of indifference from students this year when it came to taking the test.

"I haven't seen a year like this and the apathy with it," she said.

While scores for the test have not been released, it was clear to Fossen that some students completed the test without fully reading it or found difficulty understanding the questions.

Results will be released to the public later this month and officials will post a school report to the district website.

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Fossen said the test is hard, and the standards were not adjusted this year by the state, likely to gauge how much of a learning loss the pandemic brought.

The test also does not have an academic impact on any of the students, which added to the indifference as students would finish sections of a test in minutes when it would take longer just to read each question. Fossen said a lot of the scratch paper, which students can use for problem solving, was not used this year either.

"I wouldn't as a teacher take the third grade math test without paper and pencil and computations," she said.

Students are able to opt out of the MCA test if they have permission from their parents or guardians. Wrenshall had nine students opt out.

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Board member Nicole Krisak said with the test being administered at the end of the school year, students are feeling done with school, especially when it was their first year back in school.

Fossen agreed with Krisak, but said if the test is administered earlier in the year students don't have a chance to learn about concepts that would show up on the test.

On a more positive note, Fossen said Measure of Academic Progress testing has shown growth in the district, which is a good sign.

"It gives us a lot more immediate feedback and usable information," she said. "We are seeing a lot of growth, a lot of really nice growth in some grade levels in particular."

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Because MAP testing is not as long and intense, Fossen said students were more willing to put time and effort into the test.

In other district news, Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro asked the board to start thinking about an updated policy for school lunches.

Belcastro said lunches had been free during the pandemic for all students, which made life easier, but now the district will have to make a decision on how they want to proceed.

"This topic was very controversial for us at the board level," she said. "There is truth to students feeling like people know if they don't have lunch money."

There is possible state legislation that would continue to make lunches free, however Belcastro said that is still up in the air.

Board member Jack Eudy said lunches at school can be extremely important for some of the students.

"Some of these kids, the only meal they get is here," he said.

The board also held a special closed meeting to discuss the Office of Civil Rights complaint against the district with the district's legal counsel.

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No action was taken after the hour-long closed session.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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