Minnesotans are proud that the state’s educational achievement scores for elementary students exceed many other states and the nation as a whole. However, breakdowns for Minnesota’s achievement scores expose serious warning signs, especially in the critical area of early and proficient reading. The state’s Black, Latino and Asian American 4th grade students on average did worse than their counterparts nationally on the 2009 NAEP reading test, and our White and American Indian students did no better than their peers nationwide.
When it comes to 4th grade reading scores, Minnesota may be paying a price for too small an investment in early education. Minnesota lags behind other states in government-funded preschool education options – initiatives that can have a significant impact on educational achievement for students, especially students of color.
A particularly worrisome trend is that while the national average NAEP 4th grade reading scores have increased for Blacks and Latinos – two key and growing demographic groups – Minnesota’s average scores for these students have not. Minnesota’s average score for White students didn’t rise either from 2003 to 2009.
Minnesota is a national leader when it comes to the share of its population with at least a high school education. More than 90% of all Minnesotans ages 25 and older are high school graduates or the equivalent, compared to just less than 85% for the U.S. as a whole. But the overall share of students graduating from high school will decline unless Minnesota takes action to address educational inequities.
As communities of color become a larger proportion of the total Minnesota population, they will represent a larger proportion of Minnesota’s students. Graduation rates for Minnesotans of color are much lower than the rate for Whites. And the high school dropout rates are higher for Minnesotans of color, with the rate for Minnesota’s American Indian students at seven times the rate for the state’s White students, and the rates for Blacks and Latinos at about four times the White rate, based on data from the federal government for the 2008-2009 school year.
As with high school completion, college education is a clear strength for Minnesota, but the share of Minnesotans holding bachelor’s degrees is expected to drop over the next decade unless attainment rates increase for Minnesotans of color. Students of color represent the fastest growing population segment in the state, but they are not doing as well as their White peers on post-secondary enrollment and completion.
Growth & Justice has advocated strongly for increasing the state’s higher education attainment rate to 75% by the year 2020, and we cannot reach this goal unless significantly greater shares of Black, Latino, Asian American and American Indian students complete high school, enroll in college and earn degrees.
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