How Mississippi is schooling Minnesota — again

Recovery from learning loss among Mississippi students — who had significantly more access to in-person instruction than Minnesota students — is dramatically higher compared to Minnesota students.

Data continue to confirm that school closures exacerbated student learning loss, and the longer a district was in a distance learning or hybrid learning model, the greater the loss. (Look for my soon-to-be-released education report that digs into this more.)

Adding to the data on this is a recent analysis of schooling mode and state test data by Brown University economist Emily Oster.

For Minnesota, Oster reported that only four percent of students were in districts that offered “very high levels” of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. In Mississippi, 65 percent of students were in districts that offered very high levels of in-person instruction for that year.

While math and reading proficiency declined in both states during the 2020-2021 school year (although the declines were not as large in Mississippi), the recovery of Mississippi students in 2022 is far more dramatic. According to Minnesota’s state test scores, the number of students performing at grade-level in math and reading in 2021 was 10.6 percentage points lower relative to 2019, and 9.8 percentage points lower in 2022 compared to 2019. For Mississippi, the number of students reading and doing math at grade-level was 9.1 percentage points lower in 2021 compared to 2019, but in 2022 was only 1.3 percentage points lower than in 2019.

Such a variation in recovery provides yet another opportunity for Minnesota to learn from Mississippi. I have written several times on how Mississippi is helping its students through investment in reading training and phonics-based instruction. Black and Hispanic students outperform Minnesota’s black and Hispanic students in both math and reading, according to 2019 test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the only national test to compare state academic performance. State results from NAEP’s 2022 tests will be released later this month.

The bottom line is school closures exacerbated test score declines and learning loss, and Minnesota is struggling to help its students rebound compared to other states. As we move forward, it is important that our state leaders own up to policy decisions that have had grave consequences on our next generation of leaders while simultaneously reflecting on future policy choices and the impacts they will have.