MN 4th-graders still near the top in test results – but slipping

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The results are in – and although Minnesota fourth- and eighth-graders scored higher than the average student on a national proficiency exam, state educators say there is still more work to do.

Fourth-graders in Minnesota scored "significantly lower" on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) math and reading tests compared to 2013.

Eighth-graders in the state saw no significant changes in test scores in either subject, according to test results released Wednesday.

Despite scoring among the top states on both exams, results show there is still an achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts in Minnesota. Black, Hispanic and low-income students scored, on-average, 25-40 points lower than their peers.

"While we can be proud of our students’ relatively strong performance compared to other states, it would be a mistake to be complacent given that there is still significant room for improvement," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a news release.

Education officials in Minnesota told the Star Tribune. that to bring the scores up, students need high-quality preschools and more resources.

Nearly 10,000 Minnesota students took the exam, the release says, which is given every two years to fourth- and eighth-grade students across the country as a way to compare student achievement over time and to their peers in other states, NAEP says.

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Fourth-graders lose ground

In math:

  • Minnesota fourth-graders scored a 250 on the 2015 math exam, higher than the national average of 240, but lower than their average score of 253 in 2013. Minnesota scores ranked second in the nation, behind Massachusetts.
  • Black students scored on-average 30 points lower than their white counterparts. (The performance gap was 30 points in 2000.)
  • Hispanics had a score that was 25 points lower than white students. (The performance gap wasn't measured in 2000 for Hispanic students.)
  • Students who qualified for free or reduced-priced lunch scored 26 points lower than those who are not eligible for the program. (The performance gap was 23 points in 2000.)
  • 53 percent of students performed at or above the proficient level on this year's exam – 59 percent of students were at or above the proficient level in 2013.
  • Minnesota students scored higher than their peers in 45 states, while their scores were not "significantly different" from students in six other states/jurisdictions.

In reading:

  • Fourth-graders in Minnesota averaged a score of 223 on the 2015 reading exam, slightly higher than the national average of 221, but lower than their average score of 227 in 2013.
  • Black students scored 37 points lower than their white counterparts. (The performance gap was 40 points in 1998.)
  • Hispanic students had an average score 33 points lower than white students. (The performance gap was not reported in 1998.)
  • Students who qualified for free or reduced-priced lunch on average scored 31 points lower that students who weren't eligible. (The performance gap was 30 points in 1998.)
  • 39 percent of students were at or above the proficient level in 2015 – 41 percent of students were proficient in 2013.
  • Minnesota students scored higher than their peers in 16 states/jurisdictions, and lower than their peers in 11 states/jurisdictions. Their scores were not "significantly different" from students in 24 other states/jurisdictions.

Eighth-graders' scores remain flat

In math:

  • Eighth-graders averaged a score of 294 on the 2015 math exam, higher than the national average of 281. The average score for Minnesota students was 295 in 2013.
  • Black students averaged a score 40 points lower than their white counterparts, while Hispanic students scored 30 points lower than white students. (Performance gap figures for 2000 were not available.)
  • Students who were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch averaged a score that was 30 points lower than students who weren't eligible for the program. (In 2000, that performance gap was 20 points.)
  • 48 percent of Minnesota students scored at or above the proficient level in 2015 – 47 percent were proficient in 2013.
  • Minnesota students scored higher than their peers in 48 states/jurisdictions, while their scores were not "significantly different" from students in three other states/jurisdictions. They didn't score lower than peers in any state.

In reading:

  • Eighth-graders averaged a score of 270 on the 2015 reading exam, higher than the national average of 264. In 2013, Minnesota students had an average score of 271.
  • Black students averaged a score that was 29 points lower than their white counterparts. (In 1998, the performance gap was 38 points.)
  • Hispanic students averaged a score 16 points lower than white students. (Performance gap data isn't available for 1998.)
  • Students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch averaged scores 24 points lower than students not eligible for the program. (In 1998, the performance gap was 23.)
  • 40 percent of students in Minnesota were at or above the proficient level – 41 percent were considered proficient in 2013.
  • Minnesota students scored higher than their peers in 27 states/jurisdictions, lower than their peers in four other states/jurisdictions, while their scores were not "significantly different" from those in 20 states/jurisdictions.

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