Minnesota Reading Scores Plummet in Common Core Assessments

The results of Minnesota's first Common Core-aligned tests showed a sharp decrease in reading scores.

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Students in Minnesota scored significantly lower in reading when the state issued its first set of assessments aligned with college-and-career readiness standards in the 2012-13 school year.

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While students' scores overall only dropped slightly in mathematics, every grade showed a noticeable drop in reading scores, according to the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores released Monday. Statewide, the number of students who scored as "proficient" in reading dropped from 76 percent in 2012 to 58 percent in 2013. Mathematics proficiency scores dropped from 62 percent to 61 percent.

While all grades experienced sharp decreases in reading proficiency, one of the largest changes in the scores came from third-grade reading results. In 2012, 80 percent of third-graders tested as proficient in reading, but with the new assessments last year, only 57 percent met that benchmark.

"It's important to look at today's tests results for what they are: a snapshot in time that tells us how students are doing in mastering our state standards," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement. "What is needed now is to focus our efforts and stop moving the goal posts so teachers and students have a consistent target to hit."

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The standardized tests, issued during the 2012-13 school year, were the first set aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The standards set grade-level benchmarks for the knowledge and skills students are expected to master in reading and math each year, in order to be prepared to start college without taking remedial classes.

Although the states that have adopted the standards (45 states and the District of Columbia, as of July 2013) are not required to coordinate their assessments with them until the 2014-15 school year, a few have done so in preparation.

New York also began administering Common Core-aligned tests in 2012 and saw an even more distinct drop in scores when the results were released Aug. 7: not even one-third of students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the standards for math or English.

New York Education Commissioner John King said at the time that the results do not mean that students or teachers are doing worse, but that the assessments give them a more precise idea of what areas need improvement.

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Cassellius also echoed that claim, saying the drop in scores is not a reflection of the students' intelligence, but rather a sign of the difficulty of the new standards.

"Anytime a new test based on new standards is given, a drop in scores is to be expected," Cassellius said. "But setting high expectations is the right thing to do. If we want our students to compete in a global economy, we must continue to stretch and hold ourselves accountable for helping students meet higher standards."

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