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A broad swath of St. Paul Public Schools students will be getting extra help studying for high stakes tests this spring as part of a new district program that is assigning a phalanx of senior teachers to focus on improving test scores.
St. Paul students, along with those across the state, will sit for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments II (MCA-II), and the Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD) exams beginning in April.
The district initiative calls for about 55 of its "coaches" to focus specifically on helping targeted students in targeted schools to perform better on the exams. Coaches are experienced teachers with expertise in particular subjects who normally coach other teachers and deliver classroom lessons. Some are assigned to specific schools, while others work district-wide.
The coaches will work with small groups of students in conjunction with their classroom teacher, changing a portion of their current workday, St. Paul officials said. "We're targeting all the students who need assistance," said Luz Maria Serrano, interim chief academic officer for the district.
The initiative, which took effect Tuesday, focuses on reading in the high schools and math and reading in the lower grades. District officials said they couldn't determine exactly how many children will be affected, and each school determines which students will get the extra help.
"This re-direction is not designed to drill students on test-taking strategies. Instead, we need to temporarily redirect our instructional resources so that our students improve their reading and math skills," Superintendent Valeria Silva said in a statement.
The district has set an unprecedented goal of raising student test scores by 10 percentage points this year in math and reading. Last year, for example, 46 percent of students scored "proficient" or better on the MCA-II math test, compared with 64 percent statewide; and 52 percent were proficient in reading, compared with 72 percent statewide.
What's more, going into the current school year, about 1,900 seniors had not passed a state reading test that will be required for graduation this year. The district has about 3,000 students who are seniors.
Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287