Minnesota’s national education ranking continues to drop

Declines in reading and math achievement have contributed to Minnesota’s national education ranking falling once again, coming in at #19, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (The Casey Foundation ranked Minnesota education #7 in 2021, #9 in 2022, and #18 in 2023.)

The annual report, “Kids Count Data Book,” compared score changes in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2019 and 2022. The percentage of Minnesota fourth graders not meeting NAEP’s reading benchmarks increased from 62 percent in 2019 to 68 percent in 2022. Minnesota eighth graders not meeting NAEP’s math benchmarks increased from 56 percent to 68 percent. (As I wrote back in fall 2022 when the scores were first released, Minnesota fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math performance on the national tests reached the lowest in 30 years.)

The reading and math results on national assessments mirror worrisome academic performance trends on the state’s tests (the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments), with fewer than half of students statewide meeting grade-level math and reading standards. Over 64 percent of the graduating class of 2024 didn’t demonstrate math proficiency as 11th graders, the last time they took the state math assessment. 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 closure policy decisions.

“Educators, researchers, policymakers and employers who track students’ academic readiness have been ringing alarm bells for a long time,” stated the Casey Foundation. “U.S. scores in read­ing and math have bare­ly budged in decades. Com­pared to peer nations, the Unit­ed States is not equip­ping its chil­dren with the high-lev­el read­ing, math and dig­i­tal prob­lem-solv­ing skills need­ed for many of today’s fastest-grow­ing occu­pa­tions in a high­ly com­pet­i­tive glob­al economy.”

Such academic setbacks in the U.S. could bring economic consequences totaling $31 trillion, according to research by Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek and economist Bradley Strauss.

For Minnesota, the average individual economic losses are predicted to be over 7 percent — putting the state 8th highest in expected loss in lifetime income from interrupted learning.

During the 2023 legislative session, the legislature’s READ Act made evidence-based reading instruction a requirement for school districts, teachers, and the teacher preparation programs that prepare teacher candidates for the classroom. This statewide overhaul of literacy education will take several years to fully implement, but the hope is it will initiate much needed improvement in reading performance — consider the aforementioned NAEP reading scores and the fact that nearly 53 percent of Minnesota’s third graders can’t read at grade level as measured by the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment.

Average individual economic losses by state

Source: Eric Hanushek, The Economic Cost of the Pandemic: State by State, Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 2023.