Column: State-mandated tests hinder graduation
WORTHINGTON -- Students across this state are being faced with testing that could prohibit their graduation from high school. When I became an administrator three years ago for District 518, I never thought that I would spend a large part of my t...
WORTHINGTON -- Students across this state are being faced with testing that could prohibit their graduation from high school. When I became an administrator three years ago for District 518, I never thought that I would spend a large part of my time worrying about the impact that state-mandated tests would have on a large group of kids in our district. These tests have created a lot of stress and apprehension for those parents and students that have some level of test anxiety or a slight learning disability. The tests have also caused additional financial obligations for school districts across the state to invest in numerous levels of remediation to help students obtain the mandated levels of comprehension.
Several years ago, the state of Minnesota introduced into our educational system the Basic Standards Tests (BST) in reading, mathematics, and writing, which were slowly phased out and replaced by the Graduation Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD). These GRAD assessments are part of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) at the high school level. These tests are given every year as part of the MCAs to measure student performance of the Minnesota Academic Standards, which define what our students need to know and be able to do.
Minnesota's rules for testing and federal NCLB Act require that mathematics and reading tests be given in grades 3-8. In addition, students in grade 9 must take the Writing GRAD, grade 10 the Reading MCA and GRAD, and students in grade 11 must take the Mathematics MCA and GRAD.
The information gained from these tests is used to improve classroom teaching and modify curriculum. Teachers and principals look for areas where students do well on the test, so they can reinforce the ways they present skills and standards. We also look for topics that need improvement, so modifications can be made to increase instructional time and teaching strategies.
The question that keeps coming up from parents with senior high students is: "Will my son or daughter graduate if they do not pass one of the MCA and GRAD tests in grades 9-12?" According to the state of Minnesota, students will not receive their high school diploma if they do not pass the GRAD portion of the different tests in Reading and Writing. Parents need to know that there is a five-year moratorium on the Math portion of the GRAD test -- it requires all students who did not pass the test on the first try to take at least two additional retests and show at least six weeks of some kind of remediation before they will receive their diploma. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators must work together to ensure that all of our students are successful.
If you have further questions about state mandated testing, please feel free to call me at 376-6121.
Paul Karelis is principal at Worthington High School.