The following article appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (8-30):
"Minnesota's test scores are up, and the number of schools tagged as underperforming is down.
"Across the state, school officials breathed a sigh of relief Monday morning as the state released the results of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments from last spring, as well as the list of schools not meeting their performance goals under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"Overall, 247 schools were tagged as not making adequate yearly progress in 2005, down from 464 in 2004. In addition, all grades showed improvement in math and reading scores.
"'It really is fantastic news for Minnesota,' said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced the results at the State Fair this morning. 'Every type of school and student has improved performance in Minnesota, and every subgroup, too. And at the same time, the bar has been raised.'
"This year's results show more children scoring 'proficient' and more children scoring at the top level, officials said. In reading, 79 percent of kids scored proficient, up from 73 percent last year. In math, 76 percent scored proficient, up from 70 percent last year.
"Officials acknowledged, however, that federal rule changes -- rather than test scores -- allowed some schools to escape the underperforming list.
"For example, schools can average their scores over two or three years, rather than a single year.... Schools also won flexibility in counting groups such as students learning English. Schools this year didn't have to count the scores of students in English language programs unless they tested at least 40 students; last year the limit was 20....
"While Pawlenty acknowledged the impact of the rules changes, he stressed that accounted for just 'a chunk' of the improvement. The rules changes did not affect the facts that students' scores went up and that more students were scoring in the 'proficient' range.
"Pawlenty also noted that poor and minority students were improving faster than the student population as a whole, helping to narrow the achievement gap.
"Big improvements also were seen in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where many of the state's underperforming schools reside. In Minneapolis, 53 schools are on the underperforming list, compared with 77 last year. In St. Paul, 31 are on the list, compared with 44 last year....
"'Obviously, I'm very ecstatic today,' said Minneapolis Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles, who attended today's press conference. 'I didn't think I could ever be able to have held a secret like that, but I did it.'
"Pawlenty was asked about how this year's test scores reflect on the controversial federal No Child Left Behind law. 'I think there are some things that need to be adjusted in No Child Left Behind, but overall it's working. We should not back away from it. We should embrace it. It's showing good results.'"
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