The Potluck

Less than half of Minnesota students meet or exceed grade level standards in reading, math

By: - August 24, 2023 12:49 pm

Photo courtesy of Shakopee Public Schools.

Less than half of Minnesota students met or exceeded grade level standards in reading and math — proof that students are still struggling from COVID-19 pandemic learning loss that caused scores to plummet, according to the state.

The 2023 state testing scores released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Education show test scores are still about 10 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels from 2019. 

In reading, 49.9% of students met or exceeded grade level standards — down 1% from 2022. Math scores rose about 1% from last year, with 45.5% of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards.

“These statewide assessment results reinforce what we and other states around the country already know — our students, families, school communities, and educators are continuing to recover from the pandemic and need our support,” Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett said in a statement. 

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature passed $2.3 billion in new spending for education — a 10% increase from the previous biennium which swelled the state’s education budget to $23 billion. Much of the money will go toward increasing the state’s general education formula, which determines how much money goes directly to each district. 

Republicans on Thursday reiterated their criticism of the increased education spending.

“Despite historic funding for students and schools over the last four budgets, our students and classroom teachers are still not getting the support for academics they need,” said Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, in a statement. “While the forced shutdowns during the pandemic certainly impacted all of us, these test results show students suffered more than anyone. We need a laser focus on academics to improve fundamental reading and math skills.”

The education funding approved by the Legislative this year isn’t reflected in the 2023 data, and during the session Democrats said it may take years to make up for years of underfunding.

The data show Minnesota’s racial gaps in education are still stark. About 31% of Black students met or exceeded grade level standards in reading, compared to 58% of white students. About 21% of Black students were proficient in math, while 55% of white students met grade level standards.

About 24% of Hispanic or Latino students were proficient in math and 31% met reading standards. About 32% of American Indian students were proficient in reading and 24% in math.

“We will not shy away from what the data are telling us,” Jett said Thursday. “These results send a renewed sense of urgency and underscore the importance of key supports that are already underway.”

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.