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Minnesota test show minorities still struggle, Perham district scores drop in science and reading

Perham's overall scores for science and reading fell 6.8 percentage points and 4.4 percents, respectively. Math did have the slight increase, though, going from 58.8 percent proficient in 2016 to 61.6 percent proficient in 2017. (file photo)

Minnesota students appear to be maintaining mostly steady standardized scores on reading, math and science, but whites continue to dramatically outscore minority students.

Test scores are not rising much, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Monday, Aug. 7, in releasing the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test results.

"It's frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there's more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test," Cassellius said.

Perham's school district did not see the slow increase this year that Cassellius is talking about, with the overall scores for science and reading falling 6.8 percentage points and 4.4 percents, respectively. Math did have the slight increase, though, going from 58.8 percent proficient in 2016 to 61.6 percent proficient in 2017.

At the Heart of the Lake Elementary School, which only tests in math and reading, there was a marked decrease in scores from last year. Math fell from 71.8 percent proficient to 66.5 percent, and reading fell from 67.2 percent to 59.6.

At the Prairie Wind Middle School, scores stayed relatively the same from last year. Science dropped 0.6 percentage points, math increased 1.5 percentage points, and reading dropped 2.1 percentage points.

2016's MCA results at the high school were all over the board last year, with students scoring markedly low in math (33.9 percent) and high in science (65.7 percent) and reading (61.8 percent), but this year those numbers evened out with all three test categories coming in around that 50 percent proficient rate. Science came in at 48.2 percent, math came in at 52.7 percent, and reading came in 51.3 percent this year.

Since a new reading test began in 2013, overall scores for students in third to eighth grades and sophomores rose 2 percentage points. They also rose 2 points in math for third to eighth grades since 2011. Science was a high point, with 4 point jumps since 2012 for fifth, eighth and high school students who took the exam.

The data show that in reading most grades taking the test showed about 60 percent met or exceeded goals. However, that fell for minorities: Latino, 38 percent; American Indian, 35 percent; Asian, 53 percent; and blacks, 33 percent.

In math, 55 percent of 60 percent of students in each elementary grade met or exceeded goals. When broken down by race, 28 percent of blacks met the goals and 30 to 35 percent of Latinos and American Indians. The test showed 57 percent of Asians met or exceeded goals.

Science results were more varied, with fewer classes taking the tests. Overall, 54 percent topped the goals, with 60 percent of fifth graders, 46 percent of eighth graders and 56 percent of high schoolers.

Like with reading and math, many minorities struggled.

While 47 percent of Asians met or exceeded the goals, 29 percent of Latinos, 27 percent of American Indians and 22 percent of blacks did so.

For years, Minnesota schools have struggled with an "achievement gap," where minority students often struggle to keep up. Gov. Mark Dayton has worked toward increasing money spent on young students in hopes that will give them a head start on education.

"We need all children succeeding, which requires a real focus on providing an equitable education," Cassellius said. "That's why we are proposing ambitious goals that address achievement gap"

Full report

The state Education Department offers a report card on Minnesota schools at