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Little change in Minnesota students' test scores; 'achievement gap' still exists

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Minnesota student test scores showed little improvement on a key standardized exam, and results released Thursday show there is still a gap in scores between students of color and their white counterparts.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are designed to offer a snapshot of how well students statewide are meeting standards in reading, math and science.

Results show that the percent of students who are proficient in reading remained flat, while those proficient in math dropped a percentage point. Scores also show that the "achievement gap" still exists, with the Star Tribune reporting white students outperformed students of color by an average of more than 20 percentage points.

“We can never be satisfied with anything less than forward progress,” Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a news release. But she did say that a single test doesn't paint a "comprehensive picture of how a student is doing."

Reading scores remain flat

Results show that 59 percent of overall students tested proficient in reading on this year's exam – that's the same as last year, and only one point higher than 2013.

Sixty-seven percent of white students were found to be proficient in reading, while only 34 percent of black students, 36 percent of hispanic students and 38 of American Indian students were deemed proficient.

The reading test, which is measuring more critical thinking skills requiring students to read and comprehend longer stories, is still new, which is one factor in why the scores remain flat, Cassellius told the Star Tribune.

Math scores fall slightly

Meanwhile, overall scores in math fell 1 percent compared to last year, but are up 6 percent since new math test was implemented in 2011.

As was with reading, the "achievement gap" between white students and students of color exists, and the gap between black students and their white counterpart has grown slightly in the past two years, MPR News reports.

As for lack of improvement in math scores, Cassellius told the Star Tribune that the department is working on figuring out why that is, anticipating that the state will start offering more training for math teachers to help improve scores.

Computer glitches had no effect

State officials also noted that the widely reported problems involving the online testing platform while students were taking the test had no effect on overall scores.

Technical problems affected students and school districts around the state throughout the MCAs testing period this spring, but education officials found that "no statistical evidence to suggest that the disruption, on average, adversely impacted students who were testing" when the glitches occurred.

However, the analysis of the impact of other technical disruptions, including with the online calculator, lag time for questions to load, or students being logged out while taking the test, did not evaluate the impact of these issues on individual test scores.

The Department of Education says it is working with Pearson, the state's testing vendor, to determine financial consequences and possible changes to the contract ahead of the 2016 test.

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