RED WING -- Last year, 232 students opted out of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test in the Red Wing School District. That number has steadily risen since the 2015-2016 school year, increasing from 44 to 145, then to 188 in the 2017-2018 school year.

In September, the Star Tribune reported across the state fewer than 2% of students are opting out of the MCA.

In Red Wing, the figure is almost 13%.

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The Red Wing School Board discussed the MCA and other tests at their meeting on Oct. 7, where frustration was aired by all.

Personally, Superintendent Karsten Anderson has many issues with the MCA. His biggest gripe comes with how the state labels students who opt out of the test being labeled as “not proficient,” affecting districtwide results. Any student can opt out of the test, which makes Anderson question why those students who choose not to take the test should affect overall scores.

“That’s a big problem in terms of interpreting data,” Anderson said. “We need to at least take that into account when we’re talking about MCA results and where we’re going to spend our resources. We want to make sure we don’t start spending resources in an area where the results are skewed because of how many kids we have opting out of the exam.”

However, Anderson did say while he has his frustrations with the MCA the scores of students who did take the test is concerning.

The district only tested above the state proficiency level at fifth grade reading, fifth grade science and sixth grade math. That means students in 14 other possible grades did not meet state proficiency.

Board member Janie Farrar said there needs to be a creative way of encouraging student success. Farrar also suggested that residents contact their legislators and air their frustrations with the test as well.

Aside from the MCA results, the board discussed students performance in advanced placement classes and the ACT, which are on a sliding scale as well. In 2018, the district didn’t meet the state average of any ACT subject, except for science. The 2019 ACT results aren’t available yet, but the district did improve its numbers from the previous year in each category except for English where, students scored the same.

Heidi Jones, who has served 11 years on the board, said the district also needs to take a look at “equity” issues in the district, something she’s been concerned about for a while.

“We’ve had a significant growth in the free and reduced lunch population in the entire time that I’ve been here. And yet, it’s a discussion we don’t seem to have at the board level,” she said.

“We have mostly white, middle-class women delivering public education and if you look around we’re a white, middle-class board that doesn’t really represent the changes in our demographics here. So it’s up to us to reach out and start to understand those conversations and how that affects kids in the classroom,” Jones said.

Anderson said earlier in the meeting that Hispanic, American Indian and African American students are testing lower than their white peers. He agreed with Jones, saying there is an equity issue in the district.

Anderson said the district will discuss academic achievement improvements at a board workshop near the end of the month.