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Continued: Minnesota reading scores plummet in wake of tough new test; math scores dip slightly

In St. Paul, where efforts to narrow the achievement gap are a priority, white students were 71 percent proficient in both the math and reading tests, exceeding their peers statewide in both categories. White students also saw a 2 percent increase in math results from a year ago.

Despite that gain, only one minority group, Hispanic students, saw a widening of the achievement gap in math, when their results fell by 1 percent from a year ago. Asian-American and American Indian students narrowed their respective gaps by posting 5 percent gains in math proficiency, while black students posted a 2 percent gain, leaving the gap between them and whites unchanged.

Overall, 44 percent of St. Paul students were proficient in math, a 3 percent increase. In reading, 37 percent of St. Paul student were proficient.

“We’re very pleased that math results went up — not as much as we would like — but they’ve gone up, and in some schools, they’ve gone up in double digits,” Superintendent Valeria Silva said in a statement. “But our reading scores indicate that we must now dig deep into the Common Core standards in order to bring up reading results to the levels they should be.”

Some poor schools beat odds

For the first time in seven years, students from the Anoka-Hennepin district, the state’s largest, scored higher than the state average on all tests at all levels, said district spokeswoman Mary Olson.

The scores ran the socio-economic gamut. For instance, McKinley Elementary School in Ham Lake, with the district’s lowest percentage of students using the free and reduced-cost lunch program, scored 73.8 percent in science. Adams Elementary in Coon Rapids, with the district’s highest percentage of kids taking free or reduced-cost lunches, scored 70.5 percent — just three points below McKinley.

Among Minnesota schools with the highest level of students living in poverty, Global Academy in Columbia Heights ranked near the top in both reading and math. Charter schools dominated that list, which this year included perennial achievers Harvest Prep/Seed Academy, Hiawatha Leadership Academy and Higher Ground Academy.

“People who like to learn, love to read,” said Helen Fisk, director of Global Academy. “People who are curious like to solve problems. We have 400 of the best kids you could ever hope to teach.”

‘One piece of … the picture’

While the MCAs are an important measuring stick, they don’t carry the weight they once did. Under the No Child Left Behind law, math and reading proficiency measured by the MCAs once determined which schools were branded failures and forced to improve. Minnesota was freed from the federal law and rolled out a more nuanced accountability system for schools in 2012. The 2012-13 school rankings based on that new system will be out in October.

In September, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores will be released. That’s a test given to fourth- and eighth-graders in every state to gauge math and reading skills at the national level.

“These tests, while important, are just one piece of the overall picture of how students and schools are doing,” Cassellius said. “Nothing can replace talking to your child’s teacher, reviewing their daily work and visiting your child’s school.”


Staff writers Steve Brandt, Paul Levy and Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report. • 612-673-4469 • 612-673-7192

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