There are always surprises and possible unintended consequences in newly enacted legislation. One example is the noble goal of reducing the amount of testing time by students.

While curbing the time students spend on standardized testing is an almost universally supported idea, to achieve this goal the Minnesota Legislature reduced the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) testing budget in half. This means the way the new state E-12 bill will take effect could impact district budgets and opportunities for students:

  • MDE won’t offer the OLPAs (MCA practice tests), yet MCAs are still required.
  • The cost of administering the ACTs to all juniors was covered last year by the State. However, funding is now capped, and MDE will reimburse districts for these costs on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Here’s a recent memo from MDE on this issue:

Education Bill’s Impact on Minnesota Assessment Program

As you know, the Omnibus K-12 Education Finance Bill was finalized and signed during the special session of the 2015 Minnesota Legislature. The final education bill has significant impacts on our statewide assessment program, cutting in half the funding to the department to support testing. Many of these impacts will be felt in districts. The consequences of the reduction of $21 million in funding are still being determined. However, we have started to identify some reductions in service that will impact district planning, so we want to share them with you as soon as possible. More detailed information about these and other impacts will also be shared at the time of the Assessment Conference. At this time, we have identified the following:

  • The department is required to administer a new high school writing exam that is aligned to Minnesota Academic Standards. Work to implement this new mandatory assessment begins this summer.
  • The Career and College Assessments for grades 8 and 10 (ACT Explore and Plan) and the college placement diagnostic exam (ACT Compass) were eliminated. The department will no longer administer these assessments.
  • The department will not contract with ACT to administer the ACT statewide. Students in 11th or 12th grade who wish to participate in a nationally recognized college entrance exam must be able to take the exam at the school during the school day. Districts must contract directly with a test vendor to offer the college entrance exam of the student’s choice. The department will reimburse districts for the price per test only for the ACT on a first-come, first serve basis until all available funds are dispersed. MDE will continue to evaluate the implications of this legislative change and provide further guidance.
  • The department will no longer administer Written Composition, Reading, and Mathematics GRAD retests as planned in the 2015–2016 school year, including the August 2015 Reading and Mathematics GRAD retest. 
  • The department will no longer provide a statewide solution for a legislatively-required Career Interest Inventory. Districts must contract with vendors individually to administer a Career Interest Inventory to students. The results from the inventory will be used in the state-required Annual Career Plan.
  • The department will be unable to provide Pearson Perspective beginning in the 2015–2016 school year. Learning Locator numbers will be included on 2015 Individual Student Reports (ISRs) but Perspective resources matching the numbers will be unavailable after June 30, 2015.
  • MDE will not be able to provide Write to Learn beginning in the 2015–2016 school year.

There will be additional impacts and reductions that will be communicated as soon as they are finalized. To date, the department plans to offer OLPA for 2015–2016, because work had begun in the current fiscal year, which makes it a possibility to offer for one more year. However, due to the budget reductions, the department will not be able to offer OLPA for 2016–2017.

An overview of the changes to the Minnesota Assessment System and graduation assessment requirements are available in the Minnesota Assessment System and Requirements Changes 2014–2017 document, which is posted to the Test Administration page of the MDE website. View the Test Administration page (MDE website > School Support > Test Administration).

It’s clear there will be additional impacts and reductions as MDE continues to identify and finalize them. MREA encourages members to be aware and stay updated to maximize the benefits to students.