State plans K-12 tests without the tears and trauma

Brenda Cassellius
Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota's education commissioner, spoke to a meeting of metro-area educators in 2010.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

The standardized tests Minnesota students have taken for years are "onerous" and "absurd," in the words of Gov. Mark Dayton.

"I'm for accountability, but not past the point of absurdity," he said. "And that's where we've gone."

His education commissioner, Brenda Cassellius, has described the tests as traumatic for children:

"Consider also the damage caused by inappropriate testing on the lives of too many of our children," she wrote in an op-ed for the Star Tribune. "Think about the third-grade students who go home in tears, believing they are failures for life because they performed poorly on a test. Look at the effects on fourth-grade children who have special needs, or who are not yet proficient in English, yet who are forced to take the same test a second and even a third time and suffer that stigma. No parents want that for their children. And ask teachers throughout Minnesota how these high-stakes tests have stifled students' love for learning and have replaced it with weeks of rote memorization and entire school years of remedial coursework."

Now those tests are finished. The Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD) tests were killed by this year's Legislature. New standards will aim to do a better job of predicting students' likely success in college.

Cassellius joins The Daily Circuit to discuss the goals and methods of the new state tests.


For some Minnesota parents, standardized testing has reached its limits
In Minnesota, the DFL-led Legislature scrapped the GRAD tests students had to pass to graduate amid protest from Republican colleagues. The state's education commissioner, Brenda Cassellius, has been outspoken about her distaste for high-stakes tests and the need to overhaul the MCAs. (Pioneer Press)

Brenda Cassellius: Dayton, legislators invested in Minnesota's future
Ineffective high-stakes tests will be replaced with assessments geared toward getting our students ready for college and career, providing parents and teachers with a clearer picture of how students are progressing toward graduation. We will continue working to transform our high schools to make sure every student has the chance to obtain a post-secondary education, achieve their highest aspirations and ultimately land a good job. (Brenda Cassellius, writing in the Rochester Post-Bulletin)

Minnesota needs new student testing regimen
The difference is that students would take tests that actually matter — tests that would better measure their readiness for college and career; tests that would help them understand their aptitudes and interests; tests that would help teachers and parents better meet each student's needs. This proposed new testing system would better align with the admission requirements at Minnesota's colleges and universities. The reforms would help reduce the need for students to take remedial courses once they get to college. Parents would have assurance that their children are taking tests that will prepare them to succeed. (Brenda Cassellius, writing in the Star Tribune)

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