AccountabilityCareer and College Readiness

Testing Reduction Group Finalizes Recommendations

By January 20, 2015 No Comments

MREA Board Member Lee Carlson of St. James, who serves on the state task force on testing reduction, provided a recent update on the group’s progress.

Last week the Testing Reduction Advisory Group wrapped up its work with the Minnesota Department of Education. The group looked at streamlining the assessment system while still maintaining high standards for Minnesota students.

We all know there is a long journey for these recommendations to travel. Influences to be considered include possible reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the timing of those decisions, coupled with political maneuvering that may attach all or a portion of these recommendations to legislation that would fall in the “veto-ready” category for Governor Dayton.

Primary Recommendations

  • Maintain annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) testing in grades 3-8. It does not appear any ESEA changes would allow for this guideline to be removed without a federal waiver.
  • Remove the PLAN, EXPLORE, COMPASS, and the Science MCA tests at the high school level.
  • Require Reading and Math MCAs at the secondary level.
  • Students take the ACT either in the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year.

Other Options and Concerns

  • What message is being sent by removing the Science MCA requirement? Taking the ACT would retain a portion of “Science” to testing but the ACT Science test is more about reading the selection provided than it is about learning standards.
  • Few districts would have the means to create a local assessment, so Reading and Math scores at the secondary level have some utility regarding the Teacher Development and Evaluation (TDE) requirement that 35% of a teacher’s summative score will be based upon student achievement. Until districts build capacity to fully understand and implement TDE to best serve their students, the MCA scores suffice for points of data to comply with TDE regulations.
  • Accountability proponents did not want to see reductions in the MCAs at any level, but individuals more directly connected to education countered that the use of standards is not driven solely by the existence of MCAs.
  • How can post-secondary institutions use MCA scores for admission to provide another means for students to recognize a pathway to college or vocational-technical schools? MDE is committed to redesigning the MCAs as a whole to be of more use to educators and schools.
  • The ACT is not “friendly” for English Learner (EL) and Special Education (SPED) students due to it being a timed test and the process for accommodations being tedious at best.
  • Local districts will also be urged to closely examine local assessments and decide what can be done to reduce testing on that level.

Along with any changes as well as components likely to remain in place there will be a continued need to educate the public on the use of standardized testing and local assessments. Testing and assessments are necessary to provide data that drives effective instruction, so the reduction may not necessarily be in the number of tests but more towards reducing the way testing has been used to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Read more about the Advisory Group’s general areas of agreement, rationale, and timeline.