- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Statewide test results released Thursday show that Minnesota students showed no real improvement in math and reading during the last school year, and virtually no progress has been made in closing the achievement gap between white and black students.

It’s the third year of stagnant test results, and Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius says she’s disappointed by the slow progress.

Overall, 60 percent of students were considered proficient in reading testing for the 2015-2016 school year. That’s up one percentage point from the previous year. The math proficiency rate dropped about one percentage point, to 61 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of white students but only about one-third of black students had scores that were proficient or higher in both subjects. Similar gaps existed between the scores of whites and American Indian and Hispanic students. The disparities are virtually unchanged from last year.

The results suggest there’s little chance the state will achieve its long-term goal of cutting the achievement gap in half by 2017.

“I’m not sure where we’ll be next year,” Cassellius said. She said she’s not giving up, but “I’m not sure that we will meet our goals of 2017.”

Cassellius said schools can’t close the gap alone, and factors that affect students outside of school must be addressed to improve children’s chances for success.

“That means paying attention to and supporting families from birth, ensuring they have access to high-quality childcare and early education, stable housing, economic opportunity, fair wages that support families and health care when they need it,” she said.

Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational measurement at the University of Minnesota, said schools can improve outcomes for low-performing students by bringing the community into the schools and making learning more culturally relevant.

A growing movement against standardized tests in Minnesota is casting doubt on scores at some schools. State officials say parents of 2,227 11th-graders opted their children out of state math tests this year, compared to 694 last year. High school reading opt-outs also saw a big increase.

Cassellius said she’s concerned about the number of students who opt not to take the test.

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