Ups and Downs for 281

Recently some good and bad news has come out on District 281 performance;

First the bad, from the Golden Valley Patch;

Robbinsdale District Test Scores Dip

Only 81 percent of Robbinsdale students passed this year’s GRAD state writing exam

By Amy Mattson

The percentage of Robbinsdale students who passed a state-mandated writing test has dropped by 4 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

District results for the Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma test released Wednesday show 81 percent of students passed, which is down from 85 percent last year.  The state average dropped 1 percent over the past year, from 90 to 89.  “While we are disappointed with results this year, they highlight the need to intensify efforts to improve writing skills at every grade level,” said Robbinsdale Area Schools Superintendent Aldo Sicoli in a news release.

The district plans to increase writing requirements in all subject areas, the superintendent said. Staff members hope this will help students understand the relevance of strong writing skills.  We take the GRAD test seriously,” said Robbinsdale Area Schools Communications Director Tia Clasen. “Having an assessment of proficiency in writing is a good thing, and our district is continuing its work of creating powerful and effective writers.”

When compared across ethnic groups, Robbinsdale’s GRAD scores were equal to or higher than those reported statewide, according to the district.  The GRAD written composition test is given to ninth-graders and scored based on style, sentence formation, grammar, mechanics and spelling, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. Students must pass the exam prior to receiving a diploma.

Those who did not pass will have an opportunity to take the test again later this year.

Yikes, that’s not good.  On the other hand, MAP test scores improved in the elementary schools;


Every single elementary school in District 281 had above average growth from fall 2010 to spring 2011 in both math and reading on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), an assessment designed to monitor student learning.  Individual grade levels across the district enjoyed an average increase of over 6% in reading and 7% in math. The news was just as good for students at all levels of proficiency.  The percentage of students at every level of proficiency across all nine elementary schools in the Robbinsdale Area Schools making at least average growth increased over 7% in reading and 6% in math.

“We are committed to eliminate the academic disparities that exist among different groups of students,” explained Aldo Sicoli, Superintendent of Robbinsdale Area Schools, “but we are just as committed to make sure that all students grow in their learning at all levels. We are raising the bar for all students.”  In fact, those students district-wide whose fall MAP scores were above the 75th percentile had the largest increase in growth at or above target level in both reading and math, with an increase of 9% and 7%, respectively.

Elementary schools across the district have implemented new ways of doing things, from new curriculum to strategies for acceleration, and have focused intervention and enrichment time for students.  Differentiated instruction, along with purposeful assessment for small group instruction, is paying off, as is the infusion of strategies throughout the day to build a strong sense of community schoolwide.

The students are growing.  Average growth for a student translates into a year’s academic growth in a year’s time.  If a student has achieved above-average growth in a particular subject area, the student is making more than a year’s growth in one year’s time.  In Robbinsdale, those efforts are turning the entire district’s elementary students into a successful community of learners.

Well, that’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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