The Minnesota Department of Education maintains that the “state of our students is promising” despite continued drops in reading and math scores, and a persistent achievement gap.
Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker announced the release of the “State of Our Students” report on August 29, which showed that math scores dropped for the fourth straight year while reading scores continued to decline.
Overall, 58 percent of students met the state standards in reading and 54 percent met the standards in math, the report shows.
Minnesota schools have some of the worst racial achievement gaps in the country, which was on full display in the Department of Education’s report. For instance, the four-year graduation rate for white students was 88.4 percent, compared to 67.4 percent for black students and 66.8 percent for Hispanic students.
The racial disparities were even more drastic in reading and math scores. In reading, 66.6 percent of white students met the state standards along with 38.2 percent of Hispanic students and 33.9 percent of black students. For math, the numbers showed a 62.9 percent achievement rate for white students, a 31.4 percent achievement rate for Hispanic students, and a 26.5 percent achievement rate for black students.
This is despite a recent analysis from The Star Tribune that showed Minnesota spends $600 million per year to help low-achieving students. Over the past decade, the state has spent $5 billion total on efforts to close the achievement gap.
The Star Tribune notes that poverty plays a key role in achievement gaps since students who qualify for free and reduced lunch generally fall behind.
So some were taken aback when Commissioner Ricker said that student performance was “promising.”
“Too often, we condense our students down to one single data point, which eliminates everything about our students that make them who they are,” Ricker said in a press release announcing the report.
“By looking at a broader collection of data side-by-side, we can easily see the many things we have to celebrate about our students and the best strategies to support them to reach their full potential. My promise to our students is to continue seeing their strengths, persist alongside them and tackle the barriers that stand in their way,” she continued.
Notably, the four-year graduation rate for students concentrating in Career and Technical Education (CTE) was 92 percent, nine points higher than the overall graduation rate of 83.2 percent.
Gov. Tim Walz published a September 3 op-ed in The Star Tribune in response to the report and said “we must make Minnesota the ‘Education State’ for all children.” Unlike Ricker, Walz at least acknowledged the achievement gap in his article.
“The achievement gap between white students and students of color persists — threatening to hold back our future workforce,” said Walz.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Mary Catheryn Richter” and “State of our Students” by the Minnesota Department of Education.