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Fixing the educator shortage is key for academic recovery and closing test score gaps

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SAINT PAUL, Minnesota. Aug. 24, 2023 – The state of Minnesota must remedy the shortage of trained, professional educators in order to improve the academic achievement of students, who continue to post scores on standardized tests below pre-pandemic levels, said Monica Byron, the vice president of Education Minnesota. 

On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Education released its 2023 North Star Accountability report, which includes the results of the 2023 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, and other standardized tests. 

The overall MCA scores showed little change from the previous year: a 1 percentage point increase in math, a 1 percentage point decrease in reading and a 2 percentage point decline in science scores. More significantly, scores on each assessment area remained about 10 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels from 2019. 

“Too many Minnesota schools are operating without sufficient numbers of well-trained teachers, mental health teams and education support professionals because the pay, pensions and other benefits aren’t attracting and retaining enough good people,” Byron said. “Minnesota needs to get serious about this problem if our students are going to fully recover from the pandemic disruptions and if Minnesota schools are to eliminate the gaps in academic achievement between white and BIPOC students.” 

Byron noted that Gov. Tim Walz and the 2023 Minnesota Legislature made historic investments in public education, student mental health and diversifying the teacher workforce, but most of the new money wasn’t earmarked. Many school districts haven’t decided how to spend it. 

“Local unions of teachers are negotiating with school boards this fall for contracts that will begin to fix the staffing crisis and improve educator-to-student staffing ratios,” Byron said. “The issues are complicated, but we’re confident of results that will benefit students and educators alike.” 

Byron cautioned that standardized tests, including the MCAs, are an incomplete look at academic performance and parents who are concerned about their children should talk to their educators. She also urged anyone who is trying to understand how the figures describe smaller groups of students, such as in individual schools or districts, to contact their local school administrators for more details.  

“The test scores of students with special needs, students who are learning English, students who are frequently absent, and students who opted out of taking the test altogether can have a big influence on summary scores for individual schools and small districts,” she said. “No one should use these scores to punish educators or schools for accepting the most challenging students, or working in schools in which students choose to spend their time more productively than taking bubble tests.” 

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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