Minnesota student test scores drop in 2021, state launches learning recovery program

State leaders are launching a student learning recovery system after 2021's state assessment results showed a decline in the number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards across all subjects. 

This comes following a turbulent year and a half as schools transitioned from in-person learning to distance and hybrid models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, there were lower scores among all student groups, most significantly impacting students of color, English learners, those eligible for free or reduced meals and those receiving special education.

MDE released the results Friday for the 2021 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAs), ACCESS for ELLs (English language learners) and Alternate ACCESS for ELLS. 

Students last took the tests in 2019, because they were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Of those who took the assessments in 2021, the state saw the following results:

  • In reading, 53% met or exceeded grade levels, a 7% drop from 2019.
  • In math, 44% met or exceeded grade levels, an 11% decline from 2019.
  • In science, 43% met or exceeded grade levels, an 8% decline from 2019.
  • For English language proficiency among ELLs, 9% were proficient in English, marking a 3% drop from 2019.

According to the MDE commissioner, other states have seen similar drops in test scores.

"The statewide results confirm what we already knew - that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our students' learning and they need our help to recover," said MDE Commissioner Heather Mueller in a statement.

To support learning recovery, the state is starting the Collaborative Minnesota Partnerships to Advance Student Success or COMPASS program. It’s aimed to develop strategies to help meet students’ academic, social-emotional and mental health needs as the pandemic continues. More information will become available in September.

Some work was already underway before the school year started, as funding from the state's COVID-19 Recovery Budget went toward expanded summer programming.