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MN Public Schools Miss the Mark: Test Results Stagnant, Achievement Gap Persists

The Center’s president John Hinderaker recently wrote about the latest student test scores in Minnesota, revealing an all-too-familiar trend of mediocre performance in the state’s public schools.

According to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), students’ scores in math and science dropped and reading scores flatlined from 2016 to 2017.

As Hinderaker noted, these results have been typical for more than a decade. And accompanying them is a persistent achievement gap between white and minority scores. White students outscored their minority peers by up to 40 percent in math in 2017.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education, 2017 Minnesota Assessment Results

In reading, minority students’ scores lagged behind their white peers’ scores by up to 36 percent.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education, 2017 Minnesota Assessment Results

Why are achievement disparities among racial and ethnic groups pervasive in the education system? Some would say it’s because less money is spent on minority students—an alleged funding disadvantage. But as I wrote about here, states are throwing large amounts of money into education, and it isn’t resulting in academic improvements. Nor is there evidence increased public spending will close the gaps in student performance.

Take the Minneapolis Public School District. The district spent $17,611 per student. The chart below shows the achievement results of students in grade 11 who took the math assessment and self-identified as Black/African American. Out of 366 students in this category, only 17 showed proficiency.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Report Card

The Anoka-Hennepin Public School District—the largest school district in the state—spent $12,509 per student, and students in grade 11 who self-identified as Black/African American on the math assessment delivered higher academic results than Minneapolis. Seventy-nine out of 320 showed proficiency.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Report Card

This isn’t to say Anoka’s test scores are ideal—there are still too many minority students who are not proficient. But the comparison shows more public spending is not the answer to eliminating academic disparities.

If the state truly wants to solve the stubborn achievement gap, it will stop using the same approach over and over again while crossing its fingers for different results.

The results are in, Minnesota. Not all students at public schools are getting the education they need to succeed. Reducing the achievement gap involves introducing competition through school choice. Those stuck in the mediocrity trap deserve access to better educational options and resources.

Students and their parents—not zip codes—should decide where their needs will be best served.

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