Minnesota shouldn't ease up on basic-skills tests

  • Article by: David Olson and Charlie Weaver
  • Updated: March 31, 2013 - 5:59 PM

Backing away from basic-skills testing is the last way to close gaps.

  • 46
  • Comments

  • Results per page:
jjsbrwMar. 31, 13 7:25 PM

Just to make clear, these are not "basic skills tests" and I am assuming the writers are smart enough to know that but choose to mislabel the tests anyway. The tests are called the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, and there is nothing "basic" about them. For example, the passing line for the math test is the equivalent of a score of about 23 on the ACT. That's about the 67th percentile for all students who take the test (not all students, but students who take the test). The passing line for the new MCA-Series III reading test will be roughly of the same rigor. Again, there is nothing "basic" about requiring students to test in the top third. I don't oppose high standards, but let's call them that. "Basic" tests went away long ago, and the term should not be used by people who should know better.

comment229Mar. 31, 13 7:32 PM

"It’s so effective that there isn’t a rational explanation for why legislators and education officials in Minnesota want to scrap it" I think I can give you a rational explanation along with three reasons why they should be scrapped; the MCA, the MCAII, and the TBS tests for 10 years before that. If they are such a success, then why hasn't there been a major change in education over the past 20 plus years? If these two have the theory right, every kid in Minnesota should have no problem, but those problems still exist even thought these tests have been in effect for three decades now. When these two, and some legislators realize that tests mean nothing to a certain segment of our school population, and that graduation is not on their bucket list, then maybe some progress can be made. But that cannot happen in our schools, and to vilify schools for this is just wrong. These two would have you believe that we need another testing mandate and everything will be fine. How's that been working out for Minnesota, and the USA with NCLB over the last 20 years? It's time to face up to the real problems of "education in America." Hint: they are the same problems that Tom Brokaw reported on back in the 80's I believe. Not much has changed. You can call this a societal problem, a socio-economic problem, a cultural problem, or anything else you want to label it but if something doesn't work, only a fool would follow the same procedures over and over and expect a different result.

barthosrMar. 31, 13 8:22 PM

Let's keep the facts straight. The reading GRAD test is first given in 10th grade, with the expectation that a 10th grade student meeting MN's 10th grade reading standards can pass. Same for the math GRAD which is set at the low end of 11th grade expectations. Not to set common expectations for earning a high school diploma means we'll go back to the days when we just let kids graduate prepared or not, and expectations for success apply only to some kids. Having state standards helps ensure educational equity for all students - aligned testing helps kids, families and educators know if they're on track or need target assistance. What we do with the information we (broadly speaking) get from testing tells us something about our priorities.

asdfasdfMar. 31, 13 8:44 PM

More people who know nothing about education making recommendations for how to improve our system. First of all if he had read on shred of research he would know that high stakes summative assessments have no impact on student learning... None, Zero, Nada. They can assess what happened, but they do not.... "DO NOT" in any way improve student learning. Such a fundamental misunderstanding is clearly disturbing… especially if anyone out there actually listens to what they have to say.

martytoilMar. 31, 13 9:00 PM

I would challenge the authors to pass these "basic skill tests" which have nothing to do with "basic skills". The facts are that the USA exceeds every other country in the world when it comes to test results when compared to like poverty rates. Plus, Minnesota is a national leader in almost every test given.

arspartzMar. 31, 13 9:35 PM

Until somone proves that the schools are responsible for causing the "achievenment gap" rather than other more likely causes like poor work habits and poor parenting, why should we fix a non-problem?

arspartzApr. 1, 13 3:10 AM

he would know that high stakes summative assessments have no impact on student learning...

Tests do not impact learning directly, but they do quantify how much learning has taken place. Your driver's test did not teach you the rules of the road or how to drive, but it did prove that you had acquired a base of knowledge and skills. The same needs to apply to High School.

mmediaApr. 1, 13 6:35 AM

I had hoped I could see their scores from when they took these tests. Afterall, they wouldn't write about something they had no first hand experience with?

martytoilApr. 1, 13 7:05 AM

arspartz--There are a lot of lousy drivers on the road whom passed the drivers test. Passing the test shows that you know it for the day, not that you know it.

palsarApr. 1, 13 8:44 AM

"More people who know nothing about education making recommendations for how to improve our system." -- Yeah, because the people who supposedly "know" education have done such a bang up job over the years.


Comment on this story   |  


  • about opinion

  • The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.

  • Submit a letter or commentary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters