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Minnesota math and reading scores on par or higher than national averages

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Fire doors with locks and magnets can swing shut to create barriers.
A national measure finds that Minnesota students buck some nationwide trends.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

The Nation’s Report Card is out Wednesday, and Minnesota’s fourth and eighth grade students rank higher than the national average in math. And they’re meeting or surpassing national averages in reading.

Minnesota’s fourth and eighth grade math scores are not significantly different from average scores two years ago. Reading scores for Minnesota fourth graders were also comparable to two years ago. But reading scores for Minnesota eighth graders have fallen since 2017.

Minnesota test scores buck some nationwide trends. Average reading scores have sunk in both the fourth and eighth grades nationally since 2017. Average math scores have also gone down nationally for eighth graders. The only rise nationally is in fourth grade math results.

“The numbers are reason for deep concern,” Education Secretary Betsey Devos said during a press conference on Wednesday. “This country has a student achievement crisis.”

The Nation’s Report Card, or National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), compiles results of an exam measuring math and reading comprehension given to representative samples of fourth and eighth grade students across the country. Scores are ranked into categories of basic, proficient and advanced achievement.

Only 38 percent of Minnesota fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders scored at or above NAEP proficiency levels in reading this year. These numbers have fallen by 5 percentage points for the state’s eighth graders since 2017.

A higher percentage of Minnesota students met or exceeded NAEP math proficiency levels. Fifty-three percent of Minnesota fourth graders and 44 percent of eighth graders reached math proficiency thresholds in 2019. Neither of these scores are significant changes from 2017.

A number of tests rank Minnesota student achievement in core subject areas. These include the ACT exam, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment as well as the NAEP. 2019 results from these assessments show varying gains or losses in math and reading achievement for Minnesota. But achievement gaps are a common theme across all assessment tools, including the NAEP.

“While the national data released today shows that Minnesota students continue to perform well compared to their peers across the nation, the data clearly shows that our achievement gaps remain,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said in a statement.

NAEP data shows eighth grade African-American students in Minnesota had an average math score that was 45 points lower than white students. Latino students in the same grade got an average score 32 points lower than white students. And students eligible for the National School Lunch Program averaged a score that was 33 points lower than that of students not eligible for the program.

Scores for Minnesota fourth grade math achievement and both fourth and eighth grade reading achievement also came in with significant gaps for black and Latino students as well as students eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

“In order for Minnesota to become the education state, we must create an equitable education system so students from all backgrounds receive the high-quality education they deserve and are ready for what’s next after high school,” Ricker said.