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Test Results Show Minn. Student Achievement Gap Persists

Updated: 08/26/2014 6:39 PM
Created: 08/26/2014 5:41 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier

The standardized test results for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students have been released, and they're essentially unchanged compared to last year. According to the same results, Minnesota's stubborn achievement between white and minority students is also unchanged.

The first day of school for Marie and Carter Amelse is just one week away.

"We are doing a lot of activities at night, getting them ready for school in terms of checking things off the school list, just getting them back into a routine of going to bed a little bit earlier," said their father, Jeff Amelse.

This time of year also brings the return of another all too familiar routine: The release of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test results, and the reemergence of Minnesota's student achievement gap.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS analyzed the data showing the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts in Minnesota over the past four years. The gap in the math proficiency rate between white students and minority students has barely changed over the past four years. Most recently, in 2014, 68.1 percent of white students were proficient, while 33.2 percent of black students and 37.8 percent of Hispanic students were proficient.

In reading, the achievement gap has actually become slightly larger since 2011. This year, 66.6 percent of white students tested proficient, while 33.9 percent of black students and 36.1 percent of Hispanic students tested proficient.

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is now working to close that gap, as executive director of Generation Next. He said the overall numbers are disappointing, but also show some schools making gains.

"We need to understand the numbers, but also the practices in these individual bright spots, and figure out how to move those across much more rapidly to every school," Rybak said.

"As the old phrase goes, 'If you're not moving ahead, you're falling behind,'" said Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership. "As our diversity grows, we're leaving larger and larger numbers of kids behind."

Bartholomew said the solution includes letting principals choose their teachers, maximizing instructional time, and building relationships with students' families.

"It's going to be a challenge and difficult, but it can be done, and we don't have to wait 20 years to do it," Bartholomew said.

Education Minnesota, Minnesota's largest teacher's union, says the achievement gap is unfortunate, but not surprising. The union said the state only recently started investing heavily in programs aimed at closing the gap, and that it will take a few years for those efforts to show up in the numbers.


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