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September 2011
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September 14

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Stan Alleyne
Executive Director of Communications

Minneapolis narrows the achievement gap for the first time in six years 

MINNEAPOLIS – The 2011 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments – Series II (MCA-II) results show that Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has made progress in its work to narrow the achievement gap between students of color and white students. Significant across-the-board gains were made in reading for American Indian, African American, Asian and Hispanic students. While smaller, the gap was also narrowed for all groups except American Indian students in math.

For the first time in six years, MPS can point to testing data indicating the narrowing of the achievement gap. “Today’s announcement validates the hard work and focus of our students, teachers, administrators and other staff who support the success of our students and schools,” said Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson. “We still have significant gains to make, but this progress in the right direction motivates us even further to continue carrying out the work of our strategic plan.” 

The school district has implemented proven strategies to support struggling students and schools, including differentiated instruction, a new balanced literacy approach, extensive support for students who receive English Language Learner (ELL) services and additional assistance for lower performing schools. The superintendent’s priorities of continuing to implement a new teacher evaluation system and focused instruction, which aligns what is taught in the classroom with how its taught and how student progress is measured, will further support the goals of the school district’s strategic plan to close education gaps.

MPS met its goal to reduce the math gap between the school district and the state by one percentage point, with the goal to be within ten points of the state by 2015. MPS students as well as students statewide struggled with the new math test that was administered last school year. MPS testing experts as well as those at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) agree that the new test was significantly more difficult than the test administered in previous years. The new test also set a higher bar for proficiency, which makes it more difficult for students to score high on the standardized tests.

Johnson continues to emphasize a sense of urgency around closing the achievement gap and raising academic achievement for all students. “We are pleased with the increases, but not satisfied, as we must continue to work effectively to ensure that all students succeed at high levels,” she stated. “Key components of improving academic achievement include effective teaching, quality professional development, strong school leaders who make data-driven decisions and high expectations and rigor for all students, especially those who struggle.” 

Reading results

In reading, the percentage of students who met or exceeded proficiency levels increased in all grades (three through eight). The overall increase was four percentage points (52 percent to 56 percent) from 2010 to 2011. MPS’ reading increase was five percentage points over the increases of the past two years, exceeding the state’s increase. Statewide reading scores increased from 72 percent to 75 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The largest gains relative to the state were in grade eight reading, where MPS increased eight percentage points while the state increased one point over two years.

All groups of students of color showed substantial increases in MCA-II reading scores over the past two years.

  • American Indian: Three percent over two years
  • African American:  Six percent over one year and seven percent over two years
  • Asian: Five percent over one year and seven percent over two years
  • Hispanic: Five percent over two years         

The percentage of white students who met or exceeded proficiency increased by one point over the past two years.

Reading proficiency broken out by ELL status, special education status and free or reduced price lunch status showed substantial gains for all groups over the past two years.

  • ELL: 25 percent to 29 percent over two years
  • Special education: 15 percent to 20 percent over two years
  • Free or reduced lunch: 34 percent to 39 percent over two years

Math results

Across all grades in math, the percentage of students who met or exceeded proficiency decreased eight percentage points (45 percent to 37 percent) from 2009-10 to 2010-11. The statewide proficiency rate decreased nine percentage points compared to last year (65 percent to 56 percent). MPS’ decrease was less than the state’s.

The grade 11 math test did not change last year so there is an accurate comparison between 2009-10 and 2010-11 scores. As in reading, MPS’ math proficiency rate at grade 11 increased more than that of the state: seven percentage points (30 percent to 37 percent) while the state increased six percentage points (43 percent to 49 percent).

All racial/ethnic groups showed substantial decreases in math proficiency on the MCA-IIIs, likely due to the more difficult items on the new test. African American, Asian and Hispanic students’ scores all decreased by eight percentage points while American Indian students’ scores decreased by 12 percentage points and white students’ scores decreased by 10 percentage points.

  • American Indian: 30 percent to 18 percent
  • African American: 25 percent to 17 percent
  • Asian: 48 percent to 40 percent
  • Hispanic: 32 percent to 24 percent
  • White: 79 percent to 69 percent

Math proficiency broken out by ELL status, special education status and free or reduced price lunch status also decreased for all groups.

  • ELL: 26 percent to 17 percent
  • Special education: 16 percent to 12 percent
  • Free or reduced lunch: 29 percent to 20 percent

Notable Performance

In reading, the following schools experienced notable increases in the exhibited percent proficient:

  • Emerson: 12.3 percent increase
  • Northrop: 11.09 percent increase
  • Windom: 16.8 percent increase
  • Washburn: 9.56 percent increase

In math, two schools showed an increase of proficiency in grade 11 above the state increase:

  • Roosevelt: 10.8 percent increase
  • South: 7.2 percent increase

Additionally, given the difficulty of the new state math test, two elementary schools made notable gains:

  • Emerson: 5.3 percent increase
  • Windom: 4.7 percent increase