Science MCAs can count towards juniors’ final grades: Students can choose whether MCA score will be half of semester final exam grade or all of it

Brooke Sheehy, administrative beat lead

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Edina High School is taking personalized learning to a new level by incorporating the science MCAs into junior biology students’ final grades and giving them the option to decide when to study for their final.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are statewide tests that help school districts measure students’ progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards, along with federal and state legislative requirements.

Every year, juniors are required to take the Science MCAs. Historically, the biology department has seen that most students try to put forth their best effort. However, every year, a handful of students score very low on the MCAs. EHS Biology teacher Eric Burfeind spoke with several students who excelled in the class and did poorly on the MCAs last school year. “There were maybe four or five [students] that I talked to, and they told me that they just clicked through it. We asked from a student’s perspective why they would just click through it, and they said it’s because it doesn’t matter, so if it didn’t matter they weren’t going to try,” Burfeind said.

Despite setting aside some review days to emphasise that the MCAs are meaningful to the reputation of EHS, the school’s results will continue to be an inaccurate representation of what EHS students can do as long as the students have the mentality that the MCAs don’t matter and decide that clicking through to complete the test to get it over with.

The biology department has brainstormed for the past two to three years about how they can make this test meaningful for students in order to obtain data to help them successfully plan for the future. Usually, the biology final exam is worth 20% of a student’s entire letter grade. Their new plan is to give general and enriched biology students the chance to have their MCA score count for the whole 20% of their final grade, exempting them from the final. Additionally, they are provided with three whole review days in class (two more than they would have for a regular semester final) in addition to Youtube lessons, worksheets, and a structured objective list to help personalize and concentrate their studies on areas of weakness.

Because AP Biology students have the AP exam in the spring, the MCAs will not account for their final grade because their semester final is an essential tool in helping them study for the exam. While the MCAs do not have quite as large of an impact on their grade, their scores will count towards the formative category. “I’m a AP Biology student, I wasn’t really worried about [the science MCA] in the first place, but when I found out it was going to count towards my grade, I was kind of upset. There is so much more to [standardized tests] aside from just knowing the material. So many students that struggle with standardized testing and the time constraints, and for most of them it is a part of their final grade which I think is really unfair,” junior Grace Hamerski said.

According to junior Miles Harmening, a general biology student, most of his peers were excited that the MCAs were going to count as their final grade and very few were upset. “I was sitting in class with Miss Longley when she told us that we had the option for the MCA to count as out final exam. I personally was was really happy with the decision because it will allow us to be exempt from the final if we do well which is easy to do if you actually try. If I have the opportunity to take one less final during finals week, it just clears up so much extra time for me. I feel like there is no downside to it,” Harmening said.

Mr. Burfeind said that Principal Beaton will allow all juniors content with their MCA score to be exempt from biology class on their semester final day. For those students who find themselves awful at standardized testing, there is an additional solution. “If [the students] are happy with their MCA score, that will count as their final. If they think that they could do better, they have the option to take the final exam at the end of the semester having their final grade be 10% MCA score and 10% final exam score,” Burfeind said.

All biology students are given the opportunity to decide how much the MCAs will affect their final grade, giving them power to make an informed decision towards their own education. “We have kids trying harder and getting better scores which is accurately representing what they are capable of. There is just no way that this option is negatively impacting anyone,” Harmening said.

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