Test score recovery: Mississippi beats Minnesota

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows Mississippi beats Minnesota on post-COVID test score recovery. This adds to a trend of the Magnolia state showing the North Star state a thing or two about helping students academically. In fact, nearly all of the states studied in the NBER paper are recovering faster from learning loss than Minnesota.

Authors Clare Halloran, Claire Hug, Rebecca Jack, and Emily Oster analyzed patterns of test score recovery over the 2021-22 school year based on state test score data. All the states in their sample experienced declines in ELA and math likely due to overall schooling disruptions, with 20 percent of test score losses recovered in English language arts (ELA) by 2022 and 31 percent in math.

While the recovery rates did not vary significantly across demographic characteristics, baseline achievement rates, in-person school rates, or federal recovery funding allocations, state-level variation in ELA recovery rates was substantial. “The large state-level variation suggests that there likely are better and worse policies for recovery, and we hope future work will be better able to elucidate them,” note the authors.

They also point out that because state assessment results cannot be compared across states, the paper looks at the percent within each state of learning loss recovered and compares that to other states. The 21 states analyzed were Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Minnesota v. Mississippi

Out of the 21 states, Mississippi fully recovered its ELA coronavirus learning loss and had the greatest test score recovery in math (74.4 percent of scores recovered). In the study’s sample, Mississippi has the earliest adoption of science of reading legislation (2013). While the authors note they cannot identify science of reading legislation as the only impact on scores, “the correlation may indicate that such legislation could be an important component in academic recovery.”

Out of the 21 states, Minnesota experienced the least recovery in math (less than 20 percent of scores recovered). In reading, Minnesota did not recover, with student scores dropping nearly 9 percent in 2022 compared to pre-COVID results. As I wrote here, statewide scores have a history of falling short, even pre-COVID. On national assessments, Minnesota student academic performance is the lowest it has been in decades. While there is a literacy bill being considered at the legislature, there are concerns it is not as strong as it could be in the science of reading.

Minnesota v. Wisconsin

For math, Wisconsin experienced 56 percent of scores recovered, compared to 16.8 percent in Minnesota. In reading, 44.5 percent of scores recovered in Wisconsin, compared to -8.6 percent in Minnesota.

As proposed legislation in Minnesota threatens to take the state’s public education system from bad to worse, we must advocate for a decentralized, choice-enabled system that allows all families to access the educational setting that fits them best. S.F. 1000 and H.F. 1109 are a good place to start.

Test Score Summary Statistics by State