ST. PAUL (AP/WCCO) — Minnesota students’ performance on standardized proficiency tests held steady or slightly improved this year.

The tests measure students’ ability to meet reading, math and science benchmarks.

The state Department of Education says tests show about 61 percent of students statewide are proficient in math, about the same as last year. Reading rose from 58 percent to 59 percent in 2014 compared to last year.

“This kind of change is exactly what we hope to see as our teachers master how to best teach our tougher standards, so each student approaches the test confident and fully prepared,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “It is critical that we use these scores, along with other indicators of student achievement, to inform our efforts on how best to support our teachers as they prepare our students for career and college.”

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, science scores are also up slightly, from 52 percent to 53 percent proficiency.

The biggest increase came in fifth-grade reading, where proficiency climbed 4 percentage points to 68 percent.

The data also shows that Minnesota students are outperforming the nation in ACT scores, as they have been for the last nine years.

But tests also show a sizable achievement gap between minority and white students has not improved.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)