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Minnesota test shows minorities still struggle, overall results fluctuate across lakes area districts

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.

In the Detroit Lakes School District, high school students have seen more than a slow increase in test scores, with 2017 proficiency rates in science (64.2 percent), math (60.3 percent), and reading (66.5 percent) up drastically from the 2015 drop in proficiency scores in science (51.7 percent), math (48.6 percent), and reading (53.6 percent).

The Detroit Lakes Middle School, on the other hand, has seen fairly steady proficiency scores over the last five years in all three school subjects. This year, though, science scores saw a sharp increase from 61.8 percent in 2016 to 69.2 percent proficiency in 2017. Math and reading both saw a slight drop in proficiency from 58.4 percent in 2016 to 55.5 percent in 2017 and from 62.1 percent in 2016 to 61.7 percent in 2017, respectively.

In the Lake Park/Audubon School District, MCA scores have remained pretty steady across the board, with science scores up about 4 percentage points, math scores down about 4 percentage points, and reading scores only dropping 0.6 percentage points from last year.

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Schools have seen some scores jumping around in the last five years, each category going up one year then dropping again the next. However, the change from 2016 to 2017 showed a decrease in all three science (down 9.3 percent), math (down 3.1 percent), and reading (down 5.2 percent). (2016's scores were up from 2015).

Then, in the Frazee-Vergas School District, students who took the MCA brought science test scores up from 57.7 percent in 2016 to 63.1 percent in 2017. However, math and reading remained about the same this year, with math up 0.3 percent and reading up 0.6 percent.

Since a new reading test began in 2013, overall scores for Minnesota 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 shows 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 in the state 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 Minnesota 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