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State Representative Carlos Mariani

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Posted: 2009-03-19 00:00:00
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Column/LTE

Deny Students a Diploma Because of Just One Test?


Dear Editor:

Current efforts by legislators to prevent 3,500 Ė 5,000 Minnesota high school seniors from being denied a diploma next year for failure to pass one single test in math is a responsible thing to do. The issue is not whether we donít want to hold them accountable for meeting high academic standards: rather the issue is whether one test is the only way to measure their proficiency.

Letís think about it. How many of you would submit to having your knowledge and your work career measured by one test and having your hard work and dreams decided by that single measurement? How many of you are willing to have your future totally determined in this way? Our guess is not many.

Headlines argue that by creating a balanced, yet rigorous, way for students to demonstrate their knowledge is the same as admitting that students who struggle with tests canít do grade level math. Common sense and fairness should tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. Sometimes, we simply donít do well in tests.

Currently estimates indicate that potentially thousands of students may not pass Minnesotaís Graduation Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD) math test, putting their diploma at stake. It is simply unfair to deny a young Minnesotan the ability to continue their studies based on the outcome of one single test, particularly when we raised the standards in the middle of their K-12 schooling. While high standards are important, changing the rules in the middle of the game is not.

There are alternative ways to measure student achievement and to do so while promoting high outcomes. Other states have multiple, quality pathways for students to attain a high school diploma. We need time to develop those high quality alternatives. In the 2009 Legislative Session we are authoring a bill (HF501) that offers to temporarily set aside the ďsingle test" approach while we engage the best educators and minds in Minnesota to design a more meaningful high quality approach.

Developing balanced and innovative education and testing policies will ensure that we have world-class students and nation-leading schools. Collectively, we can design a testing system to empower our students with the knowledge, skills and discipline to succeed in the classroom and the world.


State Representative Carlos Mariani
Chair, K-12 Education Policy

State Senator Chuck Wiger
Deputy Chair, Finance Ė E-12 Education Budget and Policy

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