NAEP reading and math assessments are nationally administered to fourth- and eighth-grade students and were last given in 2019. Minnesota students’ scores declined across the board in fourth-grade reading, fourth-grade math, eighth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math compared to 2019 but are also the worst in decades.
For example, the average fourth-grade reading score for Minnesota students is the lowest it has ever been from the time the test was first administered in 1992 and is also below the national average. Minnesota’s average eighth-grade math score is the lowest since 1990. The average fourth-grade math score is the lowest since 2000, and the average eighth-grade reading score is the lowest it has ever been since scores were first tracked in 1998. Reading and math scores have declined consecutively in both grades tested since 2017.
Participation in NAEP is required by federal law, and the math and reading assessments are administered to a sample of students who represent the student population of the states and nation as a whole. It is the only objective student learning outcome measure available to compare states’ academic performance, and it assesses how states are doing in preparing their students (i.e., whether state standards are rigorous enough).
Minnesota student performance on the state’s tests (the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) has also revealed academic proficiency in reading and math continues to fall short. Fewer than half of students statewide are performing at grade-level in math (44.6 percent) and just under 50 percent of students can’t read at grade level. These results add to the long-term trend of mediocre academic performance, declining test scores, and persistent achievement gaps that existed pre-COVID — despite the state continually spending more on education — and that were exacerbated by school closures.