A MinnCAN Research Report

The State of


Public Education, 2013


Welcome to the new and improved State of Minnesota Public Education report. As you can probably tell, we did things a little differently this year. The 2013 edition of our annual analysis of Minnesota public schools is designed to be leaner, cleaner and easier for you, our fellow advocates, to use. With lots of easy-to-read graphs, it presents facts about virtually every facet of our public schools—from the kids they serve to the funding they receive to the policies that govern them.

But even with a new look, the data still tell the same story, one in which Minnesota’s achievement gaps remain inexcusably wide. Black and Latino eighth-graders trail 37 percentage points behind their white peers in math. Low-income eighth-graders don’t fare much better, coming in 32 percentage points behind more affluent students. Only half of black and Latino students graduate from high school. And while black and Latino graduates make up 10 percent of all Minnesota graduates, they only make up 5 percent of graduates who left high school having taken at least one Advanced Placement exam. Of those graduates, only 3 and 2 percent, respectively, took an AP exam—compared to 83 percent of white students.

Many of the facts in this report are grim. Enraging, even. But they are also empowering. In the two years since MinnCAN launched we’ve proven that when armed with the facts, we can build a powerful case against the status quo.

Together we will build a Minnesota in which all children have access to great schools. Because great schools change everything.

Daniel Sellers
Executive Director, MinnCAN

The kids

There are 824,333 students in Minnesota. They differ in race, economic standing and native language, but every one of these children deserves a great school.

Student demographics, 2010–2011

Low-income and non-low-income students, 2010–2011

English language proficiency, 2010–2011

Source; Note: Low-income defined as eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

The schools

There are 52,524 teachers, 333 school districts and thousands of schools in Minnesota’s K–12 system. Each one of them is responsible for providing our children with a great education.

Minnesota’s K–12 public school systems

Source here

Great schools begin with access to pre-K, but the National Institute for Early Education Research rates Minnesota near the bottom in pre-K accessibility for 3- and 4-year-olds. This is unfortunate because children who received pre-K education have stronger vocabulary skills, higher attendance rates and better reading and math test scores.

Minnesota students’ access to government-funded pre-K programs

Total state program enrollment
Number of students enrolled in federally funded Head Start programs
Number of students enrolled in state-funded Head Start programs
Percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K programs
Percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled in Head Start programs
National Institute for Early Education Research's access ranking for 3-year-olds
21st out of 24
Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K programs
Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in Head Start programs
National Institute for Early Education Research's access ranking for 4-year-olds
38th out of 39

The money

At last count, our policymakers allocated $10,685 per pupil on K–12 education. That places Minnesota near the national average of $10,615 in per pupil education spending.

Regional comparison of per-pupil spending, 2009–2010

The learning

But what are Minnesotans getting in return for their investment in public education?

State assessments show that by eighth grade, nearly 40 percent of our eighth-grade students aren’t proficient in math and nearly 30 percent aren’t proficient in reading.

Percentage of fourth- and eighth-graders scoring at least proficient on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in 2012




The Nation’s Report Card is another barometer of student achievement that allows for state-to-national comparisons. Its proficiency rates are expected to mirror student mastery of the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts, which our teachers will begin implementing this year. The Common Core State Standards are a state-led initiative to adopt clear academic standards that will better prepare students for college and the workplace. If the Nation’s Report Card is any indication, fewer than 40 percent of our eighth-graders will be able to meet that level of rigor.

Percentage of fourth- and eighth-graders scoring at least proficient on the Nation's Report Card, 2011




Sources for math in 4th grade and 8th grade; reading in 4th grade and 8th grade.

The ACT also tests students’ college and career readiness. Over the past five years, Minnesota’s ACT participation has remained steady and the number of students who are college-ready across all four subject areas has risen to 36 percent. That’s more than 10 points above the national percentage, but there are still far too many kids unprepared for college.

Trends in Minnesota’s ACT participation (number of students)

Percentage of Minnesota ACT test-takers meeting college-readiness benchmarks

Source here.

The gaps

Minnesota’s black students trail their white peers by 30 percentage points in reading and 37 percentage points in math. There are similarly pronounced gaps between Latino and white students. Our state also contends with sizable achievement gaps between Asians and whites. In the past two years, we’ve made no progress in narrowing these divides.

Achievement gaps:
Native American

Statewide achievement gaps in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment overall results, 2011

Percentage of students proficient or above in Math

Percentage of students proficient or above in Reading

Source here.

The Nation’s Report Card indicates that Minnesota’s eighth-grade achievement gaps in math proficiency exceed those of the nation. The math gap between our state’s Native American students and their white peers is 44 percentage points, nearly 20 percentage points wider than the national gap. Meanwhile, our Latino students are 37 percentage points behind their white peers in math, compared to 23 percentage points nationally.

State-to-national comparison of eighth-grade proficiency achievement gaps in math and reading, 2011

Math (in percentage points)

  • Jurisdiction
  • Black/white achievement gap
  • 37
  • 30
  • Latino/white achievement gap
  • 37
  • 23
  • Low-income/non-low-income achievement gap
  • 32
  • 28
  • Native American/white achievement gap
  • 44
  • 26

Reading (in percentage points)

  • Jurisdiction
  • Black/white achievement gap
  • 29
  • 27
  • Latino/white achievement gap
  • 21
  • 23
  • Low-income/non-low-income achievement gap
  • 25
  • 26
  • Native American/white achievement gap
  • 14
  • 22
Sources for math: here and here; reading: here and here.

Advanced Placement courses give high school students a taste of college-level rigor and an opportunity to earn college credits by scoring three or higher on an end-of-year exam. But success rates on the AP exam reveal a clear college- and career-readiness gap between students of color and their white peers. Black, Latino and Native American children score a three or higher at less than half the rate of white students.

Percentage of graduates scoring three or higher on an AP exam at any point in high school, 2011

The ACT performance gaps between whites and students of color are alarming. Most worryingly, only 8 percent of black students are college-ready across all four subject areas, compared to 39 percent of white students.

Percent of Minnesota ACT takers meeting college readiness benchmarks by race, 2012

The dropouts

State and national assessments of student achievement confirm that many of our eighth-graders are entering high school behind. Unsurprisingly, this fact bears out in Minnesota’s four-year high school graduation rates. Though there are few dropout factories in Minnesota, a disturbing number of black, Latino and low-income students aren’t graduating from high school in four years.

Percentage of students
who graduated
in four years

Minnesota’s four-year high school graduation rates, 2011

Regional comparison of dropout factories

Number of dropout factories in:

The graduates

Preparing our children for college is critical to their future success. In 2018, 70 percent of all Minnesota’s jobs will require some level of education beyond high school. Yet the graduation rate from our two-year colleges is only 33 percent, and the graduation rate from our four-year colleges is only 59 percent.

Four-year graduation rates of degree- and certificate-seeking students at two-year colleges by state, 2008

One = 10%
  • Iowa 49%
  • Wisconsin 39%
  • Minnesota 33%
  • Illinois 29%
  • Michigan 22%

Six-year graduation rates of bachelor’s degree-seeking students at four-year colleges by state, 2008

The policies

Minnesota is making progress. Our state’s winning Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application, waiver from federal education requirements, adoption of English Language Arts Common Core standards and student-centered teacher evaluation system are all promising steps toward better schools. In addition, our charter school law ranks among the best in the country. But we need to keep pushing for increased accountability and equitable access to funding and facilities.

Minnesota’s progress on improving schools

Did Minnesota win funding in Phase 1 or 2 of the federal government’s Race to the Top competition?
Did Minnesota win federal funding from the Race to the Top Phase 3 Early Learning Challenge?
Yes, $44,858,313
Did Minnesota receive a waiver from the federal government’s education requirements?
Did Minnesota adopt the Common Core State Standards?
Only standards for English-language arts
Did Minnesota join a Common Core State Standards consortium?
Does Minnesota have a statewide teacher evaluation system?
Yes, it will be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year
Is student achievement factored into a teacher’s evaluation?
Yes, it accounts for 35% of overall evaluation
What ranking did the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools assign to Minnesota’s charter school law?
1st out of 43
Are charter school authorizers required to submit an annual report summarizing their schools’ outcomes?
Does Minnesota provide charter schools with capital funding and facilities access that is equitable to traditional public schools?

The leaders

Great schools need great leaders. The governor, his education commissioners and key legislators make the laws and regulations that affect students, teachers and administrators every day. The success of our schools hinges on their leadership.

Key leaders

  • State
  • Governor
  • Mark Dayton

  • Department of Education
  • Education Commissioner
  • Brenda Cassellius
  • Deputy Education Commissioner
  • Jessie Montano

  • Senate
  • Majority Leader
  • Tom Bakk
  • Minority Leader
  • David Hann
  • Senate Education Committee
  • Chair
  • Patricia Torres Ray
  • Members
  • Jim Carlson, Roger Chamberlain, Greg Clausen, Kevin Dahle, Melisa Franzen, Alice Johnson, Susan Kent, Carla Nelson, Sean Nienow, Branden Petersen, Eric Pratt, Dave Thompson, Charles Wiger, Melissa Wiklund
  • Finance, E-12 Division
  • Chair
  • Charles Wiger
  • Members
  • Terri Bonoff, Gary Dahms, Kevin Dahle, Dan Hall, John Hoffman, Karin Housley, Vicki Jensen, Alice Johnson, Susan Kent, Sean Nienow, John Pederson, Carrie Ruud, Tom Saxhaug, LeRoy Stumpf, Patricia Torres Ray, Bill Weber, Melissa Wiklund

  • House
  • Speaker of the House
  • Paul Thissen
  • Majority Leader
  • Erin Murphy
  • Minority Leader
  • Kurt Daudt
  • Education Policy Committee
  • Chair
  • Carlos Mariani
  • Members
  • Mark Anderson, Bob Barrett, John Benson, David Bly, Kathy Brynaert, Jim Davnie, Roger Erickson, Sondra Erickson, Tim Faust, Jason Isaacson, Ron Kresha, Debra Kiel, Ernie Leidiger, Paul Marquart, Will Morgan, Bud Nornes, Mary Sawatzky, Dean Urdahl, Anna Wills, Barb Yarusso
  • Education Finance Committee
  • Chair
  • Paul Marquart
  • Members
  • Tom Anzelc, Connie Bernardy, Kathy Brynaert, Jim Davnie, Sondra Erickson, Glenn Gruenhagen, Jerry Hertaus, Carlos Mariani, Joe McDonald, Rena Moran, Will Morgan, Pam Myhra, Jerry Newton, Duane Quam, Joe Radinovich, Yvonne Selcer, Linda Slocum, Anna Wills, Kelby Woodard, Ex Officio Lyndon Carlson, Sr.
  • Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee
  • Chair
  • Joe Mullery
  • Members
  • Bob Barrett, Kathy Brynaert, Mary Franson, Jeff Howe, Ron Kresha, Carolyn Laine., Carly Melin, Rena Moran, Pam Myhra, Joe Radinovich, Ryan Winkler

The next steps

This report shows we have a lot to celebrate as a state, but also a lot to improve upon.

With Minnesota eighth-graders scoring near the top in math and reading on the Nation’s Report Card, our public schools are, on the surface, some of the most successful in the nation. Yet that success is only relative, because three out of five of our eighth-graders don’t read on grade level. And the numbers only get worse for our black, Latino and low-income eighth-graders, who trail at least 30 percentage points behind their white peers in math.

We know that simply pouring more resources into the system won’t be enough to close those gaps: Minnesota already spends more money per pupil than any neighboring state. If we really want to close the gaps between the haves and the have-nots, we need to muster enough political will to enact the policies that will allow every child access to a great public school.

That’s where you come in. Please share this report with your family, friends, neighbors and elected officials, and then visit www.minncan.org/join to sign up for updates on other ways you can be part of our 2013 campaign.

It will take an entire movement of Minnesotans to enact the change our schools so desperately need. We hope you join us.

We won’t rest until
every student has access
to a great public school.