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Area districts get mixed reviews on achievement gap

School districts in southeast Minnesota received mixed news earlier this week when the Minnesota Department of Education released its latest report on math and reading proficiency by subgroups, such as ethnicity, with local districts falling on both ends of the spectrum.

Twelve local school districts received passing grades in both categories for each subgroup. Across the state, about 75 percent of school districts are meeting the Department of Education's goals.

However, the numbers also reveal that the three largest — and most diverse — districts in the Post-Bulletin's coverage area continue to struggle to close the achievement gap between subgroups.

Austin Public Schools fell short in five of six math proficiency subgroups and all six reading subgroups. Winona Area Public Schools missed the state's target in five of seven math subgroups and three of seven reading subgroups. As was reported earlier this week , Rochester Public Schools fell short in five of eight math subgroups and one of eight reading subgroups.

Officials from Austin did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, but Rochester's Jayne Gibson said earlier this week that "although encouraged by some of the numbers, we also realize that we have continued opportunity to improve."


The Department of Education has set a goal of cutting achievement gaps in half by 2017.

"For the first time, we have concrete goals around gaps and are letting our school leaders know exactly how far they need to go to be fully on track to close these gaps," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said of the data released Tuesday. "When you look at the numbers, you begin to realize not only how far we've come, but that our goal of reducing these disparities is actually within our reach and very doable."

The districts who enjoyed the most positive reviews are, by and large, on the smaller side. The schools who tested proficient in each subtype include: Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville, Lanesboro, Rushford-Peterson, Cannon Falls, Pine Island, Red Wing, Byron, Wabasha-Kellogg, St. Charles and Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

The data is part of Minnesota's new accountability system, developed as part of its No Child Left Behind Flexibility waiver, which measures how students in every subgroup — white, black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, special education, low-income and English language learners — are performing academically, according to the Department of Education.

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