Minnesota Joins the Call to Cut Standardized Testing

By Catherine Gewertz — March 09, 2015 1 min read
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If you’re rooting for the less-testing forces, count Minnesota in. It’s the latest state whose leadership is pushing for cutting back on assessment.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday that he’d like to eliminate one-third of the tests that state or federal law require of students in Minnesota. In a letter to leaders of the state legislature, Dayton proposed dumping seven of 21 tests, according to the Star-Tribune: the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test in math for 3rd and 4th graders; the MCA in reading for 6th and 7th graders, and ACT’s Plan, Explore, and Compass tests, typically given in middle and high school.

Students would still take the MCAs in math and reading in the other grades in elementary and middle school, as well as in high school. They would also continue to take the ACT college-entrance exam, as required by the state.

A task force established to look into testing in Minnesota had recommended more-moderate cuts: keeping the MCAs in math, reading, and science for grades 3-8, and eliminating the ACT tests and an MCA science test at the high school level.

How Dayton’s plan will fare in the state legislature is an open question. The Star-Tribune reported that House Republicans criticized the proposal for going too far. They’ve already introduced legislation that embodies the task force’s suggestions.

Then there’s the matter of federal law. No Child Left Behind requires all students to be tested in math and reading in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Even if Dayton’s proposal clears the state legislature, it would require permission from the U.S. Department of Education. Congress is working on an NCLB rewrite, but the way the winds are currently blowing, it’s unlikely to let up on the annual testing requirement.

It’s becoming increasingly popular to call for cutbacks in testing. Gov. Rick Scott and Chancellor Pam Stewart in Florida did just that last month. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has ordered that the state test be shortened. Even more states have produced task-force reports recommending assessment reductions. Colorado’s recent report was one such example.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.