Some interesting things emerge from a closer look at the MCA reading proficiency numbers for the 25 school districts in southwestern Minnesota on the flexible learning year calendar. I looked at the scores for 2009 (baseline data—before the calendar change) through 2012. Keep in mind that the sample sizes range from 30 students (Milroy Public School District 2012) to 1,211 students (Worthington Public School District 2011). There are many factors in play here, and I’ll leave it to a real social scientist to make complete sense of the numbers. But here’s what I’ve found:
- Only two districts (Luverne and Sleepy Eye) had continuous improvement from 2009 through 2012.
- Six districts (24%) had lower proficiency rates in 2012 than in 2009 (i.e., an overall decline).
- Fourteen districts (56%) had lower proficiency rates in 2010 than in 2009.
- Five districts (20%) had lower rates in 2011 than in 2010.
- Ten districts (40%) had lower rates in 2012 than in 2011.
Overall, then, nineteen districts (76%) had higher scores in 2012 than in 2009. But the improvements were not continuous. The first year of implementation (2010) was particularly difficult, with 56% of districts posting lower proficiency rates.
Statewide, proficiency rates improved steadily from 2009 to 2012. Northfield’s scores went down between 2009 and 2010, and between 2010 and 2011, but rebounded again in 2012. In other words, Northfield’s scores were higher in 2012 than in 2009, but the improvement was not continuous. The same can be said of the majority of the districts in the southwestern Minnesota consortium.
What does all of this mean? What does it say about the effect of a modified calendar (early start) on student achievement? Your guess is as good as mine.