MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A big change is coming to the way Minnesota’s high school seniors are measured for their proficiency in learning. That’s because the 2013 state legislature decided to scrap the longtime requirement for GRAD testing to measure competency in key areas as a condition of graduation.

For the past decade, graduating seniors were expected to pass statewide GRAD tests to show proficiency in writing, reading and math. But lawmakers say the requirement they created was itself flawed and forced too many students into remedial courses. In addition, they say it was artificially holding down graduation rates.

Now, under the new approach, instead of testing seniors with the GRAD as they exit, all 11th graders will be required to take the ACT in the spring of their junior year. The test will be paid for by the state and given at local schools.

“I believe strongly in the accountability of schools, no question,” states Joe Nathan, director for the Center for School Change.

Nathan’s a former teacher, administrator and PTA president. As director of the advocacy group, he welcomes the change in student testing.

“Many youngsters were graduating even having passed the tests, but had to take remedial courses. Secondly, the tests were blocking some youngsters who had just learned English from graduating high school,” Nathan said.

The idea behind the change is to switch emphasis from minimum standards in favor of testing that will show a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Assistant Minnesota Education Commissioner Kevin McHenry says it will give teachers more time to reassess each child’s educational needs.

“In the past, the GRAD measured performance of a school. What this system does is it gives information to the student on what they need to succeed in college and career and gives this information earlier on,” McHenry said.

In addition to the ACT requirement, all eighth and 10th graders will be given assessments in career and college readiness, called “Explore and Plan.” It’s another way for educators to better tailor a student’s career and educational plans as early as possible.

Bill Hudson

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