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MN 8th- and 4th-graders outpace national test averages, but achievement gap persists

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Minnesota eighth-graders improved in science while scores for fourth-graders are flat since 2009, the last year both grades were tested, according to data released Thursday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress

The NAEP, also known as the "Nation's Report Card", tests students in fourth, eighth and 12th grades on multiple subjects. Data for 12th-graders is not broken out by state.

The scores show 45 percent of Minnesota eighth-graders and 43 percent of fourth-graders scored at or above the "proficient" level. Nationally, proficiency is 34 percent in eighth grade and 38 percent in fourth grade.

Those figures may seem low, but the NAEP is designed to be a challenging test. 

"This national assessment is viewed as a gold standard. We're really trying to do our very best to set high and rigorous standards for students, teachers, parents and to be able to show growth," said Bill Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board.

Achievement gaps between white Minnesota students and students of color also appear in the NAEP science results. 

Less than a quarter of black, Hispanic or American Indian/Alaska Native students scored at or above proficient in fourth and eighth grade, compared to over half of white students. Asian and Pacific Islander students had proficiency rates of 31 percent in fourth grade and 28 percent in eighth grade.

Racial score gaps have improved nationally for all groups except American Indian/Alaska Native eighth-graders since tests were last given. 

But in Minnesota, gaps have increased for several groups: black students in both fourth and eighth grade, and eighth-graders from other racial groups.