Math, reading proficiency rates are low and steady

Nearly half of students in Southwest aren’t meeting standard


Nearly half of students in Southwest Minneapolis’ publicly funded schools are not mastering grade-level standards in reading and math, according to the latest round of statewide standardized test results.

About 55.9% of Southwest Minneapolis students were proficient in reading in 2019 and 54.4% were proficient in math, according to results released Aug. 30. That’s about the same percentage as in 2018 and slightly below the 2019 statewide proficiency rates of 55.5% for math and 55.9% percent for reading.

Minnesota requires publicly funded schools to give standardized accountability tests, called the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, in reading and math each year. Students are required to take them in grades 3–8 and again in high school, unless their parents opt them out. They’re also required to take a standardized science test three times over their academic careers.

There is also an alternative assessment, the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills, for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Both the MCAs and the MTA measure whether students are grasping concepts the state says they should understand, given their grade level.

Students aren’t required to pass the tests or even to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency to graduate high school, but the state does use the results to determine which schools need support. The results do not account for students’ abilities when they started a given grade, though the state does also track student growth.

The Southwest Minneapolis results cover the 22 publicly funded schools in the Southwest Journal’s coverage area, which includes the Bryn Mawr neighborhood and the area bounded by Highway 62, France Avenue and interstates 35W and 394. Three schools in the area are charters, and 19 are part of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS).

The results do not include students who open enroll or attend private schools either in or out of Southwest Minneapolis.

About 58.2% of students at the 19 MPS Schools were proficient in reading, and 57% were proficient in math. The three Southwest Minneapolis charters, Hiawatha College Prep-Kingfield, Hennepin Elementary School and Stonebridge World School, had collective proficiency rates of 33.1% in reading and 29.8% in math.

Eric Moore, who heads MPS’ research department, said a school’s proficiency rate may not always indicate the growth that its students are showing. For example, he said, students at Jefferson Community School in Lowry Hill East, which had a math proficiency rate of 13.9% in 2019, have collectively shown two straight years of growth on the math test.

In a statement, Hiawatha Academies said students at its Kingfield school, which hosts grades 6–8, are showing academic growth that’s outpacing the state. Stonebridge World School, located in East Harriet, said in a statement that its rates do not reflect students’ academic improvement, noting that over 60% have met or exceeded personal growth goals on another summative assessment.

Hennepin Elementary School, located in Whittier, did not respond to a request for comment.

About 91% of eligible Southwest Minneapolis students took the reading tests and 90% took the math tests, participation rates that were below the state average.

Southwest High School had the highest non-participation rates, with just 34.2% of students taking the reading test and 18.7% taking the math test. Its participation rate for math was up roughly 17 percentage points from 2018.

Moore said MPS saw about 1,000 fewer opt-outs in 2019 than in previous years. First-year Southwest High School principal Valerie Littles-Butler did not respond to questions about her school’s opt-out rates.