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State Representative Carlos Mariani

203 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
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Posted: 2010-03-25 00:00:00
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High School Testing Proposal Focuses on College and Career-Readiness


Dear Editor:

This session I am carrying legislation (HF 3421) to transform our state high school assessment and accountability system that will focus state graduation requirements on preparing all students for college or a career.

This legislation has been a work-in-progress motivated by the disturbing fact that the number of U.S. students prepared for college and the workplace are lagging behind other industrialized countries. Closer to home, Minnesota’s lawmakers got a wake-up call last year when it became evident that tens of thousands of juniors from all backgrounds were going to be denied a diploma because they were not on track to pass Minnesota’s math graduation testing requirement even though they met all of the other graduation requirements.

With the education dreams of our students in jeopardy, legislators and the governor chose to temporarily set aside the single test approach and suspend the high stakes math test until 2014. This gave us time to develop a better way measure what our students learn aligned to real world expectations.

We turned to Minnesota’s best educators and experts and created a task force to design a better approach to verify student achievement that involved moving beyond relying on a single test to demonstrate their knowledge. The result of their efforts - a high school testing proposal, ACCESS (Achieving College and Career Readiness for Every Student’s Success) that focuses on college and career-readiness.

The ACCESS system would require students to take state end-of-course tests in algebra and biology that would count toward 25% of the course grade in those required subjects. In addition, students would have to pass a comprehensive reading and writing test at the end of 10th grade to graduate. These tests would replace the current MCA-II and GRAD tests.

Advantages of the ACCESS system include:
• Algebra and biology: The new system would combine a student’s score on the test with work in the class to determine if he or she has met the graduation requirement. Multiple measures of student performance is more accurate in making the high-stakes decision of whether to grant a diploma.
• The 10th grade reading and writing exam: The state would establish the passing score by comparing performance on the test to performance in post-secondary education. This would serve as a predictor of whether students are on-track for college and career readiness, while still allowing students two years for remediation and re-testing.
• Grade Inflation: This problem would be addressed by comparing high school student scores on end-of-course tests to grades in those classes. Schools with a persistent misalignment between grades and state tests scores would face consequences.

The task force also recommended options for students to demonstrate their college and career-readiness in required subjects:
• Meet the rigorous college readiness scores on the ACT or SAT and pass Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests.
• Pursue a state appeals process if they have not passed the test but can demonstrate mastery on other objective measures.
• Consider transfer students from other states who have met those states’ graduation requirements as having met Minnesota’s requirements.

This proposal establishes high graduation standards and provides our students with a road map to follow as they prepare for college or a career. I am confident that this new system will empower our students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the classroom and the world.

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