ST. PAUL-Minnesota continues to have among the nation's best scores on a biennial assessment of students' math and reading skills, but large gaps remain between students of color and their white classmates.

Results from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation's Report Card, were released Tuesday, April 10. Every two years, more than half a million fourth- and eighth-graders from across the nation take the assessments.

Like much of the nation, Minnesota's performance on the tests was largely unchanged from 2015. The state continues to perform strong overall, but also has some of the largest achievement gaps in the nation.

For instance, Minnesota math scores are among the best in the U.S. with fourth-graders tied with Massachusetts for first place and eighth-graders in second place. Minnesota also had strong reading results, with fourth-graders tied with Indiana in ninth place and eighth-graders in 11th.

Yet the gap in scores between students of color and their white peers is significantly larger than the national average.

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Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, applauded Minnesota's top math scores, but she lamented the state's persistent achievement gaps.

"We must do better. Our kids are depending on us," Cassellius said. "Our most important work is in eliminating these nagging disparities by removing barriers and increasing opportunities for our kids who have been underserved for way too long."

Average scores for all Minnesota student groups combined were not statistically significantly different from 2015. Despite little significant changes in performance, however, there were some bright spots and areas of concern.

For instance, Asian students' math scores rose in both fourth and eighth grade. But Minnesota's Asian students are well below the national average, presumably because of the state's large Asian immigrant and refugee populations.

Black students saw their reading scores rise at both grade levels. But their math scores fell at a similar rate.

Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership, said the stagnant scores are further evidence school leaders need to do more to ensure teachers are implementing state standards and that parents have detailed information about their children's schools.

Bartholomew noted that a recent report from the Wilder Foundation showed schools have been slow to implement state language arts standards. He added that the state has yet to unveil the details of how school performance will be communicated with parents under its new oversight system.

"On one hand we have to recognize a measure of success," Bartholomew said. "But also, the gaps are deep and persistent. We are a changing society. For 20 years we've been saying unless we figure this out, more and more kids will be underserved."


Christopher Magan can be reached at 651-228-5557 and, or on Twitter at @chris_magan.