A Profile in Change?
Minnesota’s embattled academic-standards program may face its toughest—and perhaps final—challenge next year: a governor dedicated to its demise.
Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, will be the first person in the governor’s office who is unabashedly opposed to the Profile of Learning. Former Gov. Arne Carlson, also a Republican, and current Gov. Jesse Ventura, an Independent, were strong supporters. Along with a Senate controlled by Democrats, the two protected the program from challenges by a GOP-led House, conservative parents’ groups, and educational traditionalists.
But the Democrats will hold only a slim majority in the Senate next year, and those longtime Profile of Learning critics will finally have a friend in the top state executive post.
Mr. Pawlenty “believes [the standards system] needs to be replaced with different standards,” said Tim Morin, the governor-elect’s spokesman. “The Profile of Learning isn’t effective.”
The “profile,” as it is called in Minnesota, became the state’s graduation requirement in the 1998- 99 academic year. The state steered away from specifying academic content for the standards in an effort to maintain local control of curriculum. The program also emphasizes tasks over tests for student assessment, diverging from the course followed by many states, where more standard tests reign.
Critics argue that the profile is a bureaucratic nightmare for schools and pushes a left-leaning agenda that fails to focus on educational basics like mathematics and history.
“Parents hate what it’s doing to their children, and teachers are constricted by the government on what they can teach students and how they teach it,” said Sen. Michele Bachmann, a Republican who says her opposition to the profile helped her get re- elected.
She predicts that because interest in the profile is so intense, bills aimed at scrapping it will be introduced on the first day of the 2003 legislature.
Minnesotans shouldn’t expect immediate action, however. As priorities go, the state’s $3 billion deficit for its $13.9 billion fiscal 2003 budget is likely to be addressed first.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 2002 edition of Education Week