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Addressing a statewide crisis: Minnesota’s education achievement gaps

Minnesota, October 13, 2019

Addressing a statewide crisis: Minnesota’s education achievement gaps

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis underscores a crisis in Minnesota: our students’ educational disparities are deep, wide, and persistent. In response, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page are partnering to develop a fundamentally different approach to reform that focuses on educating each individual child.

“Closing our achievement gaps is critical to the success not only of thousands of young people, but also to our economy and our state,” said President Kashkari. “One of our goals at the Federal Reserve is to achieve maximum employment, ensuring that as many Americans as possible are able to contribute to our economy. There is no greater determinant of success in the job market than education.”

“As a Supreme Court Justice I saw firsthand that quality education is a key driver of justice.  Children who don’t get a quality education are far more likely to fall through the cracks of society,” said Justice Page.

In the report, “A Statewide Crisis: Minnesota’s Education Achievement Gaps,” Minneapolis Fed economists Rob Grunewald and Anusha Nath find the state has some of the largest gaps in the nation, and these disparities are seen across race and income categories, traditional public and charter schools, and in both urban and rural areas of the state.

Specifically, the report documents the crisis:

  • Minnesota has some of the largest gaps in the nation on outcome measures by race and socioeconomic status.
  • Our educational disparities are not confined to race; low-income white students significantly trail higher-income white students across Minnesota.
  • Disparities span all parts of the state and all types of schools, whether district or charter schools. This is not just a metro issue or a traditional public school issue.
  • Achievement gaps are evident across a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, graduation rates, and college readiness indicators.
  • Racial and income gaps in standardized test scores and college readiness have increased over time, while gaps in graduation rates have decreased.
  • Minnesota is graduating an increasing proportion of students who are unprepared for college.

“While we’re not the first to examine Minnesota’s achievement gaps, this report goes beyond race to document patterns across socio-economic status and geography,” Nath, one of the report’s co-authors, explained. “We all have a stake in ensuring all students succeed educationally.”

The report stresses that there is hope and highlights other places in the nation that have improved outcomes for students of color and low-income students. These high performing regions tend to have a number of features in common. They start teaching children at an early age and focus on maximizing student learning time. They work to attract, develop, and retain high-quality teachers. They use data and coaching to improve instruction. And policymakers give schools greater autonomy and remain focused on actual student achievement. 

Building a better life

President Kashkari and Justice Page come to this issue with different lenses, but their goal is the same: ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to build a better life and that starts with education.

“We must empower families and ensure that each child is getting a quality education regardless of where they live, family income, or the color of their skin. This is about justice and the economic vibrancy of Minnesota,” President Kashkari and Justice Page wrote in a response to the report in a Star Tribune commentary.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that, with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the Federal Reserve System, the nation’s central bank. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is responsible for the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis participates in setting national monetary policy, supervises numerous banking organizations, and provides a variety of payments services to financial institutions and the U.S. government.