Testing Changes Since 2006

The second generation of state tests, the MCA-IIs, were introduced in 2006. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the purpose of the state tests is “to document, or measure, Minnesota students’ achievement with regard to the Minnesota Academic Standards and meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind.” The substantial overhaul was made to align the tests with the Academic Standards (prior to the revision, the state tests didn’t necessarily measure what students were expected to know).  Future revisions can be expected because the Academic Standards are now being changed.

With all of these changes, it’s hard to see how the MDE can continue to claim the test results can be used “to inform curriculum decisions at the district and school level, inform teaching at the classroom level through the use of classroom level reporting, and to help demonstrate growth from year-to-year for students or groups of students using both cohort and longitudinal student data.”

The bottom line is, they can’t:

  • Test results are delivered too late to inform instruction for the students who took the test;
  • Certainly, teachers can change their teaching strategies in ways that may or not be appropriate for their new class of students; and
  • By definition, 2006 and later results cannot be compared to prior year results because the content is completely different.

100 Ways to Fail

Also in 2006, test scores used to calculate AYP expanded to include reading and math grades 3-8 (not just grades 3, 5 & 7).  Science test in grades 5, 8 and once in high school were added in 2008.[i] Science scores are reported for NCLB purposes but are not used to calculate AYP.

Each time the state adds a new assessment to the AYP calculation, it adds another 20 ways to fail.
(all students plus each subgroup (9) times two,
for participation and performance)

As of spring 2006, Minnesota has added another
100 ways for schools to fail (


Additional Resources

March 2010 – Achieving College and Career-Readiness for Every Student’s Success – A proposal for a new high school assessment and accountability system for Minnesota, College and Career-Ready Policy Institute Assessment Working Group.

December 28, 2009 – Technical Manual for Minnesota’s Title I and Title III Assessments For the Academic Year 2008–2009 and the
January 12, 2010 – Companion Yearbook – Provide not only a grueling read, but also a detailed description of the following items of interest (Minnesota Department of Education):

  • a history of Minnesota state tests
  • identification of the groups and individuals represented on the various committees
  • the methodology used for aligning the tests to the academic standards and developing test items and test construction
  • test administration and security
  • accommodations available to students with individualized education plans (IEPs), 504 Plans or ELL status
  • a cautionary note about soley using test scores for program evaluation
  • the methodology used to align the standards with the test achievement levels and determine cut scores for the MCA-II and MTAS tests
  • the methodology used to derive scale scores to adjust for differences between test forms from year to year (2006 is the baseline year for the MCA-IIs)
  • the methodology used to develop the growth model progress score introduced in 2008
  • the methodology used to allow for test comparison across years (equating and linking)
  • the methodology used to determine validity and reliability
  • how constructed response and essay questions are scored

July 16, 2009 – Science MCA-III Test Specifications for Science Released for Review and Comment – The Science MCA-III based on the new standards will begin in the 2011-12 school year. Members of the public are welcome to submit comments on the draft Test Specifications until May 2010. General or specific comments on this initial draft are welcome and should be emailed to mde.testing@state.mn.us with “Science MCA-III Test Specifications” in the subject line. With your comment(s), please include the strand, substrand, standard or benchmark code as a reference, Minnesota Department of Education (MCA Test Specifications).

November 16, 2009 – Students help Minn. take aim at new standardized test – Minnesota students will be taking a new version of the standardized test help the state develop get ready for the new test’s roll out in two years, Minnesota Public Radio.

January 2, 2008 – MCA-II Test Specifications for Science – Includes the items and strands students will be expected to know in science, Minnesota Department of Education.

April 4, 2007 – U.S. Department of Education announces greater flexibility/new regulatory guidance on special education assessments – Allows states to count 2% of scores based on alternate assessments when measuring adequate yearly progress, U.S. Department of Education.

November 2006 – Minnesota Assessments: Interpretive Guide – Understand the results of the Minnesota assessments. Descriptions of the individual student reports and summary reports as well as how to interpret the data is included, Minnesota Department of Education.

September 2006 – States given flexibility in testing limited-English students, Pioneer Press.

September 2006 – Cognitive Levels on the MCA-II  – An introduction to cognitive levels with examples of how they are used in the Reading, Math and Science MCA-IIs, Minnesota Department of Education.

August 2005 – Assessment Advisory Panels – An overview of the purposes of the advisory panels that develop Minnesota’s high stakes tests, Minnesota Department of Education.

[i] Local school districts determine the high school grade level for the science test, but participation rates will be reported for AYP purposes on the basis of 10th grade cohorts. Science participation rates but not test results will be used to calculate AYP (FAQs about the Science MCA-II, February 2008).

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