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“Parents are going crazy,” she said. “MAP tests, NWEA tests, fluency tests ... the ACT, the Explore, the Plan, the MCA 1s and 2s and 3. … Parents are like, tested out. They think this is beyond crazy to them.”
Weaver said business leaders don’t object to changing the type of tests, and he likes the idea of tailoring high school testing more closely to the needs of colleges. He objects, however, to elimination of a minimum score students have to earn to graduate, calling it a vital issue for Minnesota’s future business growth.
“The biggest concern for the business community is the quality of the workforce, five, ten years, from now,” he said. “Frankly, now employers look around at the competence of students graduating from high school, and they’re worried. … If we fail to graduate students from high school who have basic competency, particularly in reading, writing and math, we will not produce the kind of workforce our companies need.”
Weaver said business groups are going to fight hard to preserve minimal testing standards and may conduct an advertising campaign to raise the issue’s profile.
“What they’re doing is they’re dumbing down the Minnesota high school diploma at a time when colleges and employers are expecting more from their graduates,” Weaver said.
Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, a retired English and journalism teacher who believes reading and writing skills are vital to success, has objected to the changes in committee hearings. “I think it’s a travesty if we repeal the GRAD exams for the diploma,” she said. “To me, this is a watering down.”
Underlying her support of the tests is a reverence for language. Erickson wants students to fully appreciate great literature, not just technical writing needed for work. “I want students to know that there’s a world beyond that,” she said. “We’re losing sight of the wealth found in words.”
Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, who sponsored the testing changes in the House, is enthusiastic about the way the new testing system will improve learning.
“From early age, seventh, eighth grade, we’ll be looking at not only what students’ skills are, but what are their interests, what are their ambitions?” she said.
“I think it’s a huge change,” Brynaert said, one that could accomplish the impossible — making the school test of the future less offensive to all.
“It will be seen as a tool toward achieving goals and objectives, rather than a barrier,” she said.
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042