While math and reading test scores declined moderately at many area schools this year, there’s reason to believe public schools are making progress if only because they see their shortcomings and vow to improve.

While Mankato Public Schools reading and math scores were down half a percentage point and 4 percentage points respectively, they remain above the state average by 5 and 6 percentage points.

Still, with a state average of just 54 percent in math and 58 percent in reading “meeting proficiency,” optimism should be tempered. State test scores as a whole were down for both math and reading this year.

It’s also important to note, as did Mari Sievek, Mankato’s director learning and teaching, that the test scores represent a “one-day snapshot of how our kids are doing.” Schools shouldn’t be judged on test scores alone.

Other measures now required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act should also be considered. Those measures include graduation rates, attendance rates and if non-English speaking students are improving their English.

On those measures, area schools seem to be doing well with graduation rates from a low of 83 percent to a high of 100 percent. Attendance rates are also solid with regular attendance rates from 86 percent to 96 percent.

The so-called “achievement gap” or “opportunity gap” remains stubbornly wide for students of color. The gaps are far too high at 30 and 40 percentage points between white students and students of color locally and statewide.

The gaps have been stuck at those levels for several years despite time and money spent to improve them at state and local government.

We don’t have the solutions, but new approaches should be considered. One teacher, writing in the Star Tribune, suggested that teachers be asked for solutions. We think maybe even school social workers and school behavioral specialists should be consulted. All of our school professionals are smarter than one education commissioner or political leader.

Another teacher noted teachers by themselves can’t help students be successful. They need help from families, businesses, nonprofits and the community at large. We second that notion.

Education is the foundation of a society’s prosperity and a society’s equality. That should be something we can all invest in.

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