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Minnesota test show minorities still struggle

Minnesota commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius

Minnesota students appear to be maintaining mostly steady standardized scores on reading, math and science, but whites continue to dramatically outscore minority students.

Test scores are not rising much, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Monday, Aug. 7, in releasing the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test results.

"It's frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there's more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test," Cassellius said.

The Wadena-Deer Creek school district saw an overall increase in science (up 7.1 percent) and reading (up 0.7 percent) over 2016's scores. However, math scores sank just a bit, down 1.3 percentage points from last year.

In the specific schools, the Wadena-Deer Creek elementary, which only tested in math and reading, saw a drop in scores, with math falling from 70.7 percent proficient in 2016 to 64.7 percent proficient in 2017 and reading falling from 60.9 percent proficiency in 2016 to 58.2 percent in 2017.

Wadena's fifth and sixth graders increased proficiency over the last year in all three test categories, going from 64.2 percent to 82.8 percent in science, from 47.4 percent to 48 percent in math, and from 64.5 percent to 68.8 in reading.

As for the Wadena high schoolers, they saw a slight drop in science (down 1.3 percent) and reading (down 0.3 percent), but actually increased their math scores (up 3.2 percent) over last year's scores.

Since a new reading test began in 2013, overall scores for students in third to eighth grades and sophomores rose 2 percentage points. They also rose 2 points in math for third to eighth grades since 2011. Science was a high point, with 4 point jumps since 2012 for fifth, eighth and high school students who took the exam.

The data show that in reading most grades taking the test showed about 60 percent met or exceeded goals. However, that fell for minorities: Latino, 38 percent; American Indian, 35 percent; Asian, 53 percent; and blacks, 33 percent.

In math, 55 percent of 60 percent of students in each elementary grade met or exceeded goals. When broken down by race, 28 percent of blacks met the goals and 30 to 35 percent of Latinos and American Indians. The test showed 57 percent of Asians met or exceeded goals.

Science results were more varied, with fewer classes taking the tests. Overall, 54 percent topped the goals, with 60 percent of fifth graders, 46 percent of eighth graders and 56 percent of high schoolers.

Like with reading and math, many minorities struggled.

While 47 percent of Asians met or exceeded the goals, 29 percent of Latinos, 27 percent of American Indians and 22 percent of blacks did so.

For years, Minnesota schools have struggled with an "achievement gap," where minority students often struggle to keep up. Gov. Mark Dayton has worked toward increasing money spent on young students in hopes that will give them a head start on education.

"We need all children succeeding, which requires a real focus on providing an equitable education," Cassellius said. "That's why we are proposing ambitious goals that address achievement gap"

Full report

The state Education Department offers a report card on Minnesota schools at