Minnesota fourth-graders are the the best in the nation when it comes to math, according to results of a nationwide test released Thursday.
Considered the best comparison of students from state to state, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results show Minnesota fourth-graders outperform their counterparts in every state in math. Eighth graders had the fifth-best scores in math.
In reading, fourth-graders had the 10th highest scores in country while eighth-graders had the 11th highest score.
Perhaps even more notable - Minnesota appears to be narrowing the persistent achievement gap between white and non-white students.
For example, African-American fourth-graders had the fourth highest math scores on the NAEP test. In 2011, that same group of students ranked 22nd.
"Today's results are first and foremost a testament to the incredible work of teachers who know that every child matters," said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
Gov. Mark Dayton said the state's most recent investment in early learning scholarships and all-day kindergarten will only help improve students' performance in the future.
"These results are very encouraging, especially among our state's youngest children," he said. "I congratulate Minnesota students, educators, and parents for their hard work."
The NAEP test is given every two years to randomly selected fourth- and eighth-graders. About 3,000 Minnesota students were selected to take the 2013 NAEP test.
The results should help ease parents’ concerns after Minnesota students experienced a sharp decline in the reading portion of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.
State education officials chalked up the drop to the fact that the test was based on the tough, new Common Core standards.
Minnesota adopted those standards for reading but decided to forgo them for math. At the time, then-Education Commissioner Alice Seagren argued that the state’s math standards were tougher than Common Core and ultimately would lead to better academic results.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, welcomed the improvements but warned that the test results were a “mixed bag” for Minnesota.
“We didn’t see the same improvements at the eighth grade level,” Daudt said, who credited the fourth graders’ improvement to policies put in place when Republicans ran the Legislature; policies “that really focused on third graders reading at grade level and provided literacy.”
Nationally, the results show some improvement among fourth- and eighth-grade students taking the math exam and eighth-grade students taking the reading test.
"Today’s results give me hope, as more students are performing at or above the proficient level, which tells me that they are demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter when it comes to math and reading,” said David Driscoll, chairman of the NAEP governing board. “Even though the gains since 2011 are modest, some states have notable improvements, and over time all of these improvements add up to higher achievement overall.”
The NAEP results show a persistent achievement gap between white and non-white students across the country. Florida is the only state to have narrowed the gap between black and white students at both grade levels and in both subjects.
For a deeper look at the results, click here