Much like districts across Minnesota, the Duluth school district made little headway in its ongoing efforts to address achievement gaps and improve proficiency in core academic subjects, according to new data from the Department of Education.
In the 2018-19 academic year, 55% of students in Duluth public schools who took standardized tests met the state standards for math. That’s three percentage points lower than the district’s number last year and on par with this year’s Minnesota average.
In reading, Duluth students performed slightly above the state average, with 62% of test takers in the school district earning scores that meet Minnesota standards. Compared to the prior year’s results, the district dropped one percentage point.
Disparities between racial groups continue to exist in the district. Last year, 17% of black students in Duluth public schools were considered proficient in math, while 22% were considered proficient in reading — among the lowest proficiency rates when compared to other large districts with 200 or more black students tested last year. The scores are well below the statewide averages for black students of 27% and 34%, respectively.
In contrast, 61% of white Duluth students met state standards in math, and 68% did the same in reading.
Poverty levels also play a documented role in academic achievement. In the Duluth school district last year, for instance, 42% of students eligible for free and reduced lunches met the state standards for reading. Of those not eligible for free and reduced lunches, 75% were deemed proficient in the same subject.
A new Star Tribune analysis uses the Department of Education data to predict what an individual school’s proficiency rate should theoretically be based off the percentage of its students qualifying for free and reduced lunches. You can look up if individual schools are doing better than worse than those calculated expectations online in our “Beating the Odds” database.
Duluth Public Schools face potential changes in the coming year, as Superintendent Bill Gronseth has said he plans to step down after this academic year. The school board will conduct a search for his replacement during the coming months.
Other personnel shake-ups could also spur changes. Duluth school board member Josh Gorham announced his resignation Wednesday, just 20 months into his term, citing disagreement with the district’s leadership.
Gorham did not respond to repeated requests for comments.