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Minnesota student test scores remain flat

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Minnesota student test scores largely remained the same as last year on a key standardized exam taken in the spring, and the state's troublesome "achievement gap" persists, according to new test score data released Tuesday.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, were taken by nearly 500,000 students across the state. The tests are designed to offer a snapshot of how well students are meeting standards in reading, math and science.

Across Minnesota, about 61 percent of students proved proficient in math, the same last year. Reading scores overall ticked up from about 58 percent proficient in 2013 to nearly 59 percent. Science scores also inched up slightly from 52 percent to about 53 percent.

You can explore the test statewide data, as well as find scores for districts and individual schools with this state report card tool.

“We are seeing steady improvement in student achievement. The trend line is up, and that’s progress,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement. “This kind of change is exactly what we hope to see as our teachers master how to best teach our tougher standards, so each student approaches the test confident and fully prepared."

Achievement gap

As is typically the case when new batches of test score data are released, any good news in the scores was tempered by persistent concern about the long-lingering achievement gap between white students and their minority peers. The Pioneer Press has several bar graphs that starkly tell the tale at a glance.

The Star Tribune also highlights several examples: Statewide, black students in grades 3 through 8 were 35 percent proficient in math, compared to a 71 percent proficiency rate for white students.

In reading, black students had a 33 percent proficiency, compared to 67 percent for white students.

Minnesota education officials have vowed to cut the achievement gap in half by 2017, and data released last spring indicated the state was on track to do that, they said.

Still, the scores further underline a need for more innovative ways to narrow the gap, observers say.

“I think we can say that no one in this community is happy with where [the achievement gap] is at,” Jonathan May, an official with the group Generation Next, told the Star Tribune. The group is a metro-based initiative led by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak aimed at erasing the achievement gap.

Minneapolis, St. Paul scores

The Star Tribune notes that the state's two biggest school districts had largely the same scores as last year overall.

In Minneapolis, 42 percent of students were proficient in reading, the same as last year. In math, 44 percent were proficient, a 1 percent increase from 2013.

In St. Paul, 38 percent of students were proficient in reading, a 1 percent increase. Math scores dipped 2 percentage points to 42 percent proficient. The Pioneer Press and Star Tribune detail how major restructuring in the St. Paul schools has presented transitional challenges for students there.

For more info on the MCAs, here is a parent fact sheet about the tests, who takes them and how students prepare (pdf).

Cassellius was expected to discuss the latest round of scores on MPR's "Daily Circuit" show Tuesday at about 11 a.m.

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Data released by the Minnesota Department of Education Wednesday revealed that reading and test scores among students in the state have remained relatively flat over previous years. Also, while the scores showed a wide achievement gap between white students and students of color, state officials are hoping a change in how testing data is evaluated will help them fix the persistent disparity.