Test scores stagnant, achievement gap unchanged

Published 10:41 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

By Solvejg Wastvedt

MPR News/90.1

Minnesota students saw little progress in test scores this year, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

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The state’s wide academic achievement gaps between white students and students of color also remain virtually unchanged, according to the scores.

They come from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, tests in reading, math and science that most students take every year.

The percent of students considered proficient in reading statewide ticked up one point to 60 percent, and the math proficiency rate for third- to eighth-graders dropped one point to 61 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of white students passed the tests in both subjects. Black students saw proficiency rates around one-third. Similar gaps exist for American Indian and Hispanic students. Those disparities remained virtually unchanged from last year.

“The progress isn’t fast enough,” said state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

Cassellius said the stagnant scores have convinced her that schools can’t close achievement gaps on their own. She said factors like poverty, homelessness and hunger stall progress.

“Unless we also deal with the great urgency around all these other outside school factors, we won’t be able to move the achievement disparities as quickly as we’d like to,” Cassellius said.

She said schools also need more support services like social workers to connect students to resources outside of school. Minnesota spends less of its education money on student support than any other state.

Test scores in the state’s two largest urban districts mirrored the statewide trend. St. Paul saw small progress in reading and science scores, with flat results in math. Achievement gaps between white students and students of color widened slightly in reading and remained nearly unchanged in math.

“Clearly we are encouraged by the fact that we did see gains in reading and science, but honestly we are disappointed in the incremental change that we’re making,” St. Paul Public Schools CEO Michelle Walker said. “I have a lot of concern about the number of our students who are not proficient.”

Walker noted that the district did make progress in middle school, especially seventh grade. St. Paul reconfigured middle schools three years ago, and officials say schools are getting used to the change.

In Minneapolis, new superintendent Ed Graff says the district is not pleased with its results either. Minneapolis saw proficiency rates go up 1 percentage point in reading and stay flat in math.