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Minnesota Makes Significant Gains in Narrowing Achievement Gap

November 07, 2013

Minnesota students post highest scores on “Nation’s Report Card” in state history

ST. PAUL, MN – For the first time since the state began reporting achievement gap data more than a decade ago, national test results released today show that Minnesota is making significant progress in narrowing the achievement gap between white students and students of color. According to the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – otherwise known as the “Nation’s Report Card” – math scores among Minnesota fourth grade students were the best in the country this year, and reading scores showed significant achievement gap closures. Additionally, fourth and eighth grade students this year recorded the best scores in math and reading since NAEP scores started being collected in Minnesota.

“These results are very encouraging, especially among our state’s youngest children,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “I congratulate Minnesota students, educators, and parents for their hard work. Today’s report shows important progress toward narrowing achievement gaps between students of color and white students. The additional investments in early learning scholarships and all-day kindergarten, which were approved by the Legislature this year, will help build on this progress.”

Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius pointed to several initiatives that have contributed to this success, including: significant investments in early education by Governor Dayton and the Legislature, the new “Read Well by Third Grade” law that includes a requirement for every district to create a literacy plan, Minnesota’s waiver from the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, and more rigorous reading and math standards.

“Today’s results are first and foremost a testament to the incredible work of teachers who know that every child matters,” said Commissioner Cassellius.  “It also shows that if we focus our efforts on the things that work – setting high standards, holding schools accountable, supporting great teachers and investing in early learning – we will get results.”

How Minnesota Students Performed on the 2013 Nation’s Report Card
NAEP test scores for Minnesota students improved significantly this year, marking important progress in reading and math proficiency – particularly among students in the fourth grade.

Best Fourth Grade Math Scores in the Nation – Minnesota fourth graders posted the best math scores in the nation, with more students performing at advanced levels than any other state. This year, African American students in Minnesota posted big gains in math, performing fourth-highest among all African American students in the country, compared to 22nd in 2011.

Fourth Graders Post Tenth-Best Reading Scores in the Country – This year’s test results also showed significant progress in reading among Minnesota fourth grade students. Minnesota fourth graders performed tenth-best in the nation in 2013, moving up from 22nd just two years ago. Additionally, gaps between white students, and African American and Hispanic students closed by 10 test points – a roughly 25 percent improvement since 2009.

Eighth Graders Fifth-Best in Math, Eleventh-Best in Reading – Despite posting the best scores since Minnesota began recording eighth-grade NAEP scores in math and reading, students in eighth grade did not show as much improvement from 2011. The gap between white and African American students in reading is the seventh largest in the nation, while the gap between white and African American students is fourth largest in math. Still, Minnesota eight-graders performed among the best in the nation, ranking fifth-best in math and eleventh-best in reading.

“Today’s results paint a picture of two very different approaches to educating children,” said Commissioner Cassellius.  “For three years, this administration has focused on investing in our youngest learners, providing earlier interventions to make sure kids are on track, and holding ourselves accountable for every child’s progress: we are seeing the results of those efforts with our fourth grade students. Our eighth grade students by contrast, faced years of disinvestment and did not get the same kind of focused attention on early literacy as students in recent years have gotten.  We clearly have much more work to do to increase achievement for those students who have not had the same support since preschool.”

Minnesota’s NAEP results in full are available on the National Assessment of Educational Progress website.

About the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
The Nation's Report Card is the largest nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States. Through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), The Nation's Report Card informs the public about what America's students know and can do in various subject areas and compares achievement data among states and various student demographic groups.
Since NAEP assessments use the same sets of test booklets for students across the country, NAEP test results serve as a common metric to compare academic progress and performance between states. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, which also makes NAEP scores a useful tool to assess student academic progress over time.

More information about NAEP is available on the National Assessment of Educational Progress website.