MN test results show academic declines continue

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released test results Friday from the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), showing steep drops in student proficiency in reading and mathematics, as first reported by the Pioneer Press.

Proficiency rates fell 11 percentage points in math, to 44 percent, according to Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments results released Friday by the state education department. Reading proficiency is down 7 points in reading, to 53 percent, since 2019.

Learning loss in math was greater than in reading, which aligned with national trends, and was more prominent among Minnesota students of color.

The proficiency rate on the math MCA for white students dropped by 19 percent, compared to 34 percent for both Black and Hispanic students. Pass rates for English language learners dropped by 48 percent.

Education Commissioner Heather Mueller stated the assessment results “confirm what we already knew — that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our students’ learning and they need our help to recover.”

While the 2020 tests were canceled due to the coronavirus, Minnesota administered its annual standardized tests spring 2021 despite the teachers’ union Education Minnesota opposing the assessments and encouraging parents to opt their children out of taking the tests. Participation numbers this round were down, with only around 77 percent of eligible students completing the tests compared to the usual 98 percent, continued the Pioneer Press. For school districts that were slower in bringing students back to in-person learning, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, test completion was also lower.

According to MDE, a new initiative called COMPASS (Collaborative Minnesota Partnerships to Advance Student Success) has been created to “support student learning recovery” by meeting students’ academic, social-emotional and mental health needs.

The department will offer details later this fall on training and coaching opportunities around best practices, data analysis and a framework for meeting individual students’ academic and/or behavioral needs.

Given the learning disruptions from this past year, learning loss among students was expected.

However, Minnesota has an all-too-familiar trend of mediocre academic performance, declining test scores, and persistent achievement gaps that existed pre-COVID. Many families have recently realized that a top-down education system isn’t meeting — and hasn’t met for some time — the needs of students, causing families to pursue alternative learning environments.

The state must pursue solutions outside of the education “reforms” that have been tried ad nauseam — solutions that include expanding the school choice continuum and learning from other states that have proved how money is spent matters far greater than how much is spent. Until then, we will not make meaningful progress in boosting academic outcomes and setting students up for success.