Students in five of six local school districts performed above the state average in the 2012 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) science tests, according to data released this month.
Leading the way among Washington County area schools was the Mahtomedi district. It saw 80.5 percent of the fifth-graders, eighth-graders and high school students taking the tests being deemed "proficient" -- that is, meeting or exceeding state standards for science.
That compared with 51 percent of students statewide, and 45 percent of students in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, the only district in the area to fall below the state average.
Lynne Viker, director of teaching and learning in Mahtomedi, credited much of its overall success to the improved performance of its fifth-graders, of whom 79.7 percent were proficient -- up significantly from 2011.
Statewide, the achievement gap continued between students of color and white students. The proficiency rate for white students was 58 percent, compared with 40 percent for Asian students, 25 percent for Hispanic students and 21 percent for black students, the state reported.
In Mahtomedi, white students comprise 91 percent of the student population, with the largest minority group being black students, at 3.5 percent. In the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, 59 percent of the students are white, 16 percent are black, 15 percent are Asian and 8 percent are Hispanic, state figures show.
The state Department of Education advised against comparisons with previous test results. But the White Bear Lake district noted that its elementary scores have risen in each of the past four years.
National Public Radio host Michele Norris, whose memoir, "The Grace of Silence," has been the subject of community-reading efforts in Minneapolis and now at Century College, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the college's West Campus Theatre.
Norris, who is black, grew up in Minneapolis.
She has described her book as an "accidental memoir" that unearthed secrets about the people who raised her. The book inspired Norris to start a national exercise, "The Race Card Project," inviting people to use postcards or social media to express thoughts about race in six-word essays.
Last year, Minneapolis selected the memoir as a book for the community to read. At Century College, students, faculty and staff members will read and then discuss it in classrooms and events throughout the school year.
Here are the percentages of students by grade level who were proficient in science across the state and in these six area school districts: North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale (District 622), White Bear Lake (District 624), Forest Lake (District 831), Mahtomedi (District 832), South Washington County (District 833) and Stillwater (District 834).
5th grade 58.0% 53.0% 64.0% 63.0% 80.0% 69.0% 70.0%
8th grade 42.5% 32.0% 53.0% 42.0% 80.0% 58.0% 45.0%
High school 52.0% 52.0% 57.0% 56.5% 82.0% 70.0% 60.0%