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Indicator 1 1 : Elementary school skills

Goal: Minnesotans will excel in basic and challenging academic skills and knowledge. Minnesotans value an educated citizenry, well prepared for work and for participation in democracy and community life. The state now requires students to pass basic tests in reading, writing and mathematics in order to graduate from high school, and challenges them to meet the “high standards” of the Profile of Learning in 10 learning areas, ranging from science to the arts.

Rationale: The foundations of a good education are laid in the elementary school years when children are eager to learn and parents tend to be engaged in their children's learning.

Percentage of third-graders at level 2b, 3 or 4 on math exam

Year
199850.9%
199958.4%
200062.3%
200165.5%
200265.1%
graph
Local data

Data source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning

Percentage of third-graders at level 2b, 3 or 4 on reading exam

Year
199852.5%
199956.1%
200068.9%
200167.1%
200266.8%
graph
Local data

Data source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning

Percentage of fifth-graders at level 2b, 3 or 4 on math exam

Year
199846%
199951.6%
200063.8%
200167.1%
200270.2%
graph
Local data

Data source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning

Percentage of fifth-graders at level 2b, 3 or 4 on reading exam

Year
199853.4%
199959.1%
200071.1%
200173.8%
200274.8%
graph
Local data

Data source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning

Percentage of fifth-graders at level 2b, 3 or 4 on writing

Year
199849.1%
199959.8%
200045.7%
200170.1%
200277.9%
graph
Local data

Data source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning

About this indicator: Scores on these tests have improved since they were started in 1997-98, for both third-graders and fifth-graders. The small drop in third grade math and reading scores in 2002 is not statistically significant. Students who score at levels 2b, 3 and 4 are demonstrating skills and knowledge at or above their grade level.

The greatest improvement has been in the fifth grade. Since 1998, the proportion of students performing at or above grade level has improved by 28.8 percent in writing, 24.2 percent in mathematics and 21.4 percent in reading. At 3rd grade level, improvement has also been encouraging, with an improvement of over 14 percent in the proportion of students performing at grade level between 1998 and 2002.

For comparison: The closest national benchmarks are the National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth-grade tests. In 1998, 36 percent of Minnesota students scored “proficient” or better in reading, compared to 29 percent nationally, ranking Minnesota eighth among the 40 participating states. In the 2000 mathematics test, 34 percent of Minnesota students scored “competent” or better, compared to 24 percent nationally, placing Minnesota first among 40 states.

Things to think about: These are not pass/fail tests, but are designed to assess whether the students are performing at their grade level and to determine whether they are on track to meet the "high standards" of the Profile of Learning when they reach high school. Schools use the results of these tests to adjust their curriculum and teaching.

Although Minneapolis and St. Paul students showed the greatest improvement on the tests from 2000 to 2002, a large gap remains between the central cities and the suburbs.

In 2000, the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning commissioned an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, Achieve Inc., to study the quality and rigor of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Achieve's review found that on the whole, the tests are consistent with the content and skills of the Profile of Learning "high standards." They also made three recommendations to improve the next generation of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments: communicate more clearly to teachers, students and test-makers what the state considers most essential for students to learn; revise the assessments to measure a broader range of standards, particularly the more challenging ones; and, increase the rigor of the tests.

Technical notes: Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments were mandated by the 1997 Legislature. Third-grade students are tested in mathematics and reading; fifth-grade students are tested in mathematics, reading and writing. All public schools must participate; private schools may participate voluntarily. Children who are absent for the tests do not have to complete them. Until 2002, scores in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments were reported publicly in four levels. They are now reported in five levels to more accurately reflect the division between students performing at grade level and those working below grade level. The 2002 Children's Report Card and Minnesota Milestones report the scores in five levels for all five years that the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments have been in existence. Statewide and county level data are available. Results for each school are available on the Internet (http://cfl.state.mn.us/grad/results.htm).

Sources:

  • Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning, http://cfl.state.mn.us
  • U.S. Department of Education, National Assessments of Educational Progress, www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard
  • Achieve Inc., Measuring Up: A Benchmarking Study of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, April 2001, www.achieve.org

Related indicators:

Other related indicators:

  • School attendance rates (Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning, School District Profiles, http://cfl.state.mn.us)
  • NEAP eighth-grade scores in reading, math and science. (U.S. Department of Education, National Assessment of Educational Progress, www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard)
  • Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams completed, by race and ethnic origin. (Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning, Minnesota Educational Effectiveness Program, http://cfl.state.mn.us)
  • Public school students by race and ethnicity (Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning, http://cfl.state.mn.us)
  • Language spoken at home (Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning, http://cfl.state.mn.us)

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Technical problems? Contact: demography.helpline@state.mn.us