Are Minnesota's testing standards reasonable?

  • Article by: Gary Marvin Davison
  • Updated: April 23, 2013 - 8:49 PM

See for yourself. Samples are online. Let’s think through why anyone would jettison the MCAs.

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martytoilApr. 23, 13 9:13 PM

As an educator, I can tell you that your first point "1. The MCAs represent accurate assessments of a student’s mastery of math and reading skills needed at a given grade level." is false. I have seen students that fully understand the concepts not pass the MCA's and students whom have no concept pass MCA's. Why is it that the state will not publish how a students raw score becomes their scale score? Ongoing assessments and targeted growth is what drives learning, not one time high stakes tests. In Minnesota we lead or are near the top in almost every national assessment. In the USA we lead the world in educational outcomes when similar poverty rates are compared. Neither of these is because of the MCA's.

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pumiceApr. 23, 13 9:34 PM

Re: "Let's think through why anyone would jettison the MCAs." Why not ask the Finns, Gary Marvin Davison? From Smithsonian Magazine: "Finland’s 62,000 [professional, equitably compensated, highly respected, unionized] educators [vied to be] selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education."

Only 240 first through ninth graders attended the school described in the Smithsonian article "and in contrast with Finland’s reputation for ethnic homogeneity, more than half of its 150 elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations."

"Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school.

Particularly noteworthy is the Finnish attitude toward standardized testing: "There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development."

The veteran teacher/administrator interviewed for the article observed wryly, “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers. We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”

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comment229Apr. 24, 13 5:16 AM

I learned more, and agree more, with Pumice's ideas than what the article said. Somehow, we have spent so much time and money on failed political fixes to education over the years with mandates such as inclusion, O.B.E., mastery learning, the profiles of learning, N.C.L.B. and that list is sure to include the MCA and MCAII before long. The strength of our system of education should be diversity in curriculum and instruction. The one size panty hose system where we have an assembly line to produce a perfect student on the other end is an idealistic blunder. When are we going to identify (most teachers can already tell you what they are while politicians and think tanks are still in denial) the problems of education and address those needs. Simply, Finland has.

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comment229Apr. 24, 13 5:20 AM

PS... another political mandate is probably being talked about at all levels of government, and money will be spent, politicians will pat themselves on the back, and a band aid will be placed on top of the other band aids when what is needed is a whole new approach to education in this country. We need to start over..... instead of educating our youth like it was in 1901.

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comment229Apr. 24, 13 5:23 AM

As I read this article again, and saw the points trying to be made, it occurred to me that the ITBS provided much the same information and more in some cases. It also allowed, not only comparison for individuals to the national norms, it provided a yearly comparison of each individual's progress over a period of one year. Now, try to tell me the current system of testing is better. It seems to me that we are trying to take the long way around to get to the same destination. I wonder why?

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owatonnabillApr. 24, 13 6:59 AM

He could be wrong, but to owatonnabill it appears that 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what language one speaks.

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tandabuss1Apr. 24, 13 8:03 AM

The MCAs give the public a common means of assessing grade level performance of students in schools. They allow taxpayers and parents to know how well teachers are performing. Over time, they allow us to track the effectiveness of various initiatives. Throwing them out would be a huge mistake.

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sabier2Apr. 24, 13 8:32 AM

Re: the author's two key points - #1. is not true. Standardized test are NOT an accurate measure of anything. They are best at identifying the demographics of the students taking the tests, and there are better, considerably less expensive, ways to do that. #2. Is a political assertion not supported by evidence. The author may be a liberal democrat as he claims, but he also seems to be using the achievement gap to make a living for himself. If the author works in a charter school he is contributing to an increase in the achievement gap. Charter schools exacerbate the gap; they don't close it. Charter schools pull students out of the traditional public schools into quasi public schools leaving high achieving white students and the lowest achieving students of color in traditional public schools.

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SnippetApr. 24, 13 8:37 AM

Snippet's rule of selective fact valuation: Anything that shows us uncomfortable facts will be attacked most stridently by those who claim to value facts above all else.

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SnippetApr. 24, 13 8:40 AM

>>> He could be wrong, but to owatonnabill it appears that 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what language one speaks. <<< Well, that just proves how racist, simplistic, stupid, and insensitive you are. You act as if someone from an exotic place, like, say, Viet Nam, or Korea, or India, can just come over here and start achieving at a high academic level. Shows how much you know! What right-thinking people know - which you do not, rube - is that the tests are the real proble. Kill them off and watch the equality bloom.

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