by Scott McClallen
Statewide assessment results for 2021 show declines in the number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards compared to 2019 after a year of virtual learning and disruptions from COVID-19.
In math, 44% of students in grades three to eight and 11 who took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) or Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) met or exceeded grade-level standards, down from 55% in 2019. Student reading proficiency dropped seven percentage points to 53% from 2019, while science proficiency dropped eight percentage points to 43%.
ACCESS for ELLs (English language learners) measures students’ English language proficiency. Of the students who took the ACCESS for ELLs in 2021, 9% were proficient in English, a three percentage point decrease from 2019.
“The statewide assessment results confirm what we already knew—that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our students’ learning and they need our help to recover,” Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller said in a statement. “As we head into a new school year, MDE stands ready to partner with our educators, school leaders and staff as they work to accelerate learning and provide social-emotional and mental health support for our students.”
Decreases in the number of students achieving grade-level proficiency showed across all student groups. American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, and English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and students receiving special education services saw significantly lower levels of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards, compared to all students overall across all three assessment subjects.
Reacting to the results, MDE announced a new statewide system called Collaborative Minnesota Partnerships to Advance Student Success (COMPASS) to support learning recovery.
“Every student has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we know that not all students have been affected in the same way,” Mueller said. “COMPASS takes an all-hands-on-deck approach, in partnership with the Minnesota Service Cooperatives and Regional Centers of Excellence, to meet the needs of individual students.”
Minnesota’s data mirrors a trend of learning loss seen across other states’ assessment results.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, called the results “a tragedy for this generation of learners.”
“Mastering basic reading and math skills are essential for success in life and we are going to see the effects of this pandemic and the disaster of distance learning for a very long time,” Gazelka said in a statement. “The persistent achievement gap and these proficiency scores are in spite of historic funding for our public education system – money is not the problem. Never has it been more obvious that we need major reforms in how we educate our children: school choice, a focus on teaching basic reading and math skills, and removing political and social agendas from our education standards.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.