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State issues report on ‘State of Students’

ROSEVILLE — The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released a “first-of-its-kind” compilation of data Thursday that highlights a number of key measures of the state’s schools.

In the new “State of Our Students” report, state Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said she sees promise in Minnesota students, but urged for a “broader collection of data” to better assess how well students and schools are doing instead of analyzing test scores and other measures.

Most of the data contained within the report such as graduation rates, achievement and attendance is pulled from the 2019 North Star accountability file released in April by the MDE. Using scores collected by statewide standardized tests such as the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), North Star uses the data to paint a picture of the state’s academic achievement and progress.

Data within the “State of Our Students” report points to stagnated progress in improving core academic subjects across the entire demographic with around 58 percent of students meeting the reading standards and 53 percent meeting the math standard.

Within New Ulm Public Schools, 57.6 percent of students are meeting the state reading standard and 54.3 percent are meeting the math standard.

Data within the report also shows a positive trend for graduation rates amongst all Minnesota students with a gradual rise of .5 percent since 2017 to 83.2 percent.

Comparatively, New Ulm’s graduation rate fares better with 94.9 percent of students graduating in a four-year timeline — about 11.7 percent above the state graduation average.

The report also releases updates to the North Star accountability system and provides information and data on career and technical education (CTE) programs in Minnesota.

According to the report released Thursday, in 2018 there were nearly 250,000 combined high school and college students enrolled in CTE courses. There are 341 independent school districts, charters and special education vocational service cooperatives across the state that offer state-approved CTE programs.

The report states that the four-year graduation rate is 92 percent among students who are CTE concentrators, meaning they complete 240 CTE course hours within one career field.

When asked if New Ulm’s high graduation rate can be attributed to the district’s offering of CTE programs, District 88 Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said NUPS’s high graduation rate may be attributed to a combination of factors.

He said he attributes the grad rate to the quality of programs for students, student support, high expectations, abundance of fine arts programs and the district’s CTE program.

He said there is no state requirement for students to take a CTE course, but with the school district’s requirement that all students complete at least two CTE credits, all students who graduate have been enrolled in at least one of the CTE programs.

“We are fortunate for the varied and rich programming for students – allowing them to find something that excites them and provides the drive to finish school,” Bertrang said via an email.

gcureton@nujournal.com.

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