The Minnesota Department of Education released its first State of Our Students report Thursday, which gives a more comprehensive picture of Minnesota students and their success.

Last year the Minnesota Department of Education introduced the North Star accountability plan, which combined attendance, graduation rates and academic growth as a measure for success instead of a single test.

This year’s State of Our Students report also includes the North Star accountability plan along with data on early learning programs, students experiencing homelessness, a Minnesota student survey, ACT participation and more.

“Too often, we condense our students down to one single data point, which eliminates everything about our students that make them who they are,” said Minnesota education commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “By looking at a broader collection of data side-by-side, we can easily see the many things we have to celebrate about our students and the best strategies to support them to reach their full potential”

The State of Our Students report shows 2018 graduation rates increased for Minnesota students overall, as well as in each individual student group. Statewide, graduation rates increased 0.5% from 2017 with a four-year graduation rate of 83.2%, the highest rate on record. Student groups with the lowest graduation rates in the state, American Indian students and students experiencing homelessness, saw an increase of 0.3% and 1.4%, respectively.

“The state of our students is promising, and it’s up to us to meet their promise with our support,” Ricker said. “My promise to our students is to continue seeing their strengths, persist alongside them and tackle the barriers that stand in their way.”

Locally, Duluth Public Schools saw an overall four-year graduation increase of 2.05% from 2018 to 2019, Hermantown saw an increase of 1.87%, Proctor saw a 3.24% decrease, Cloquet saw a 0.05% increase and Lake Superior School District saw a 3.09% increase.

Duluth East High School saw a slight increase in graduation rates from 2018 to 2019, while Denfeld High School saw a decrease of 6.62%. The four-year graduation rate in 2019 for Denfeld was 73.73% and the 2019 seven-year graduation rate at Denfeld was 82.40%, a slight increase over 2018.

Duluth’s black student graduation rates in 2019 saw the biggest increase of any student group with an increase of 26.79%.

Graphic by Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com
Graphic by Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com

The North Star accountability plan identified no new schools for support in 2019. The schools that were identified in the first year of the plan in 2018 remain identified for support through 2021. The North Star system replaces the one used under the federal No Child Left Behind law and was approved as part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act signed in 2015.

Last year, locally, 15 schools in the Duluth and surrounding communities were identified to receive varying levels of support through 2021, including both of Cloquet’s elementary schools, William Kelley Elementary in Silver Bay, Denfeld High School and Duluth elementary schools Congdon, Myers-Wilkins, Piedmont and Stowe.

The 2019 math achievement rates dipped slightly for all students, with rates for each individual student group following suit, but reading achievement rates held steady from 2018 to 2019.

Statewide, 58.3% of students tested are meeting or exceeding standards in reading and 53.9% of students tested are meeting or exceeding standards in math. Locally, Duluth, Hermantown, Cloquet, Proctor and Lake Superior school districts were all above the state average.

In math, 55.02% of students tested in Duluth are meeting or exceeding standards. In Proctor it’s 55.48%, in Hermantown it’s 68.87%, 58.05% in Cloquet and 57.66% in Lake Superior.

In reading, 61.81% of students tested in Duluth are meeting or exceeding standards. In Proctor it’s 58.23%, in Hermantown it’s 70.24 %, 66.30% in Cloquet and 61.18 in Lake Superior.

The Duluth school district has recently added math and reading interventionists in multiple schools to help students who are struggling on an individual level.

The State of Our Students report also touches on students experiencing homelessness. As of Oct. 1, 2018, there were 8,079 students enrolled in early childhood, pre-K or K-12 schools in Minnesota experiencing homelessness, which is about 0.1% of the student population.

According to the report, students experiencing homelessness, compared to other low-income but housed students, miss four times as many days of school, are 9.5 times as likely to be chronically absent, are 40% less likely to be proficient in math and 37% less likely to be proficient in reading. Students experiencing homelessness also have the lowest graduation rate of any student group.

“Minnesota students face gaps in learning, housing, household income, health and more. That’s why I’m committed to finding ways to serve the whole child, so all children have the support they need to succeed in the classroom,” Ricker said. “If we keep doing the same things, we will keep getting the same results. I am committed to reimagining what education can be in the state of Minnesota. And that includes resisting the urge to rely on test scores as our sole indicator of progress.”

Visit the state's Minnesota Report Card at rc.education.state.mn.us for a detailed look at specific schools and districts.