Hancock’s MSTEP scores continue to rise

(Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette) Barkell Elementary School Principal Dan Vaara told the Hancock School Board that MSTEP proficiency scores in third grade math have increased five percent from 2018 to 2019, from 75% to 80%.

HANCOCK — MSTEP scores for the Barkell Elementary School showed steady increases in math from 2018 to 2019, approaching nearly double the state average.

For 2018, Barkell’s third grade math showed a proficiency percentage of 75%. In comparing that number for reference, Dan Vaara, elementary school principal, included a percentages chart for both the state and Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD) in his report.

The chart shows that while the state’s proficiency percentage was 45.7%, and 65% for the CCISD, Barkell showed the most dramatic percentage.

In English Language Arts (ELA), the proficiency percentage was slightly lower, at 71%, it dwarfed the state average, which was 44.4%. The CCISD’s 2018 percentage was 62%.

For 2019, MSTEP results, when compared with state and local schools, showed another dramatic increase for Barkell’s Math Department. Proficiency percentage for math had increased from 75% to 80%. The state had shown a slight increase to 47%, while the CCISD showed a slight decrease, from 65 to 62 percent.

“Eighty percent in third grade math — that’s by far the highest number of any school I’ve ever been a principal at,” Vaara told the board, “with the exception of my first few years, before they adjusted the cut scores where everybody got 100%. It seems like about 10 years ago, they changed those cut scores, which obviously changed that 100% quite a bit. But (80%) is just unbelievable, to be honest with you, especially when it’s nearly double the state average.”

ELA proficiency percentages from 2018 to 2019 remained the same, 71% at Barkell, while the state showed a slight increase to 45%, while the CCISD slipped from 62% to 59%. In discussing the numbers, Vaara said there is an infinite number of ways to display them. After a number of years, he said he found comparing them to the state’s and CCISD’s percentages is valuable.

“It’s really good to compare your numbers from year to year to (those),” he said, “because the test number changes sometimes, but when you have a 250,000 sample size, it’s a pretty statistically legitimate sample size, so that’s generally the way I look at it.”

Vaara said he is more than pleased with the increases, because they demonstrate that new teaching strategies are working.

“We put some of these things in place a few years back,” he said, “these numbers talks and this new curriculum, so these kids are kind of coming through; and every group that’s come through (the new program) has had (it) longer than the previous one.”