Minnesota has long been known as a state that values education and its importance for the future of the state. Making financial investments for K-12, as well as in our public universities, is traditionally seen as a top priority for our leaders and state lawmakers. Minnesota students’ test scores are consistently ranked among the highest in the nation.
A blight on the state’s education record — which has received much attention but little in legislative action — is the achievement gap between whites and minority students in Minnesota. The gap between the two categories is one of the largest in the nation and has remained persistent for several years.
According to data released by the Minnesota Department of Education, proficiency in math for white students was ranked at 68.4 percent, while proficiency for American-Indian, Hispanic, and African-American students all ranked below 40 percent. Asian students performed better, yet still ranked significantly lower than white students. Data showed similar achievement gaps in reading proficiency.
While many Minnesotans have been aware of the deep achievement gap, little to no real statewide action has been made by our elected officials to close it. Addressing the gap is not just important in terms of achieving social justice and equality, but is also important for the state to remain economically competitive. Minnesota is expected to become increasingly more diverse, and it is important to raise the achievement levels of currently underperforming minority groups.
Our leaders and elected officials must address our wide achievement gap head-on and propose bold education reforms. Regardless of political ideology, Minnesota lawmakers should make reducing the gap a top priority. So far in the current campaign season, there hasn’t been enough talk surrounding this critical issue.
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