December 4, 2001

PUBLIC AND PARENTAL ACCESS 
        Basic Skills Test, MCAs, & other tests 


The first law gives "public and parental access for review of the
Basic Skills Tests, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) or
any other such statewide test and assessment.  Upon receiving a
written request, the commissioner must make available to parents
or guardians a copy of their student's actual answer sheet to the
test questions." (HF2, Article 2, Section 67)

The following dates for 2002 tests may have some slight variation from
one school district to the next.  Generally, these are the times when
the tests will be given in Minnesota public (including charter) schools:

January 29th        Basic Skills Test/MCA-Grade 10 Written Composition
February 5th         Basic Skills Test/Grade 8 Mathematics
February 7th        Basic Skills Test/Grade 8 Reading
March 5th/6th        MCA-Grade 3 & 5 Reading
March 7th         MCA-Grade 5 Writing
March 12th/13th    MCA-Grade 3 & 5 Mathematics
April 16th        MCA-Grade 10 Reading
April 17th        MCA-Grade 11 Mathematics

Notice that the Department has added MCA reading and math tests in
Grades 10 and 11. State law gives the Commissioner the authority to
"assess student performance in all required learning areas and
selected required standards" at the high school level. Without much
fanfare or notification, they have added on those additional tests.

A. Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments:
STUDENTS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO TAKE THE MINNESOTA
COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENTS
(MCAs)

Schools are required to administer the MCAs, but
MCAs are not a graduation requirement. The MCAs are a check of how
well the districts, the schools and the teachers are implementing the
new education system and its new national curriculum (Profile of
Learning).

The Profile of Learning and the MCAs are based primarily on two
foundations, according to Minnesota's "Implementation Plan."  They are
the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is the
federally created and funded "National Test," and the SCANS, which are
the federal requirements for job skills.

Unfortunately, both the NAEP and the SCANS are primarily measuring
attitudes, habits and beliefs.  They are both intended to create a
kind of student more than to teach a broad liberal arts academic
education that equips students for whatever they choose to be in
life.

B. Basic Skills Test:
THE BASIC SKILLS TESTS ARE REQUIRED BY STATE LAW
FOR GRADUATION FROM PUBLIC (AND CHARTER) SCHOOLS
.
This means that the Basic Skills Tests are "high stakes" tests. 
Nonpublic school students are NOT required by law
to take the Basic Skills Tests.

C. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP):
The NAEP is administered to a random sample of students in both public
and nonpublic schools in participating states.  Minnesota participates in
the NAEP. Students are NOT required to take the NAEP (See # 4 below.)
The state law allowing parental access to tests does NOT apply to the
federal NAEP.

D. Other District-required Nationally Norm Referenced Tests:
Many districts and schools require other nationally norm-referenced
tests that are local requirements for students in that district.
Parents may not opt their children out of these requirements. The
state law allowing parental access to tests and test answer sheets
does not govern these tests. 

What Can Parents Do?
1. PARENTS SHOULD MAKE USE OF THE NEW LAW TO
REVIEW ANY TEST THAT THEIR CHILD HAS TAKEN.

"The Commissioner must make available to parents...")

Request to review the test and your child's actual answer SHEET. This is
how one parent discovered mistakes the testing company had made on the
scoring of Basic Skills Math Test.

Review the tests for academic challenge. Can they use calculators? How
advanced is the reading and vocabulary?  Is all the reading test
taken from newspapers? (It is.) Is 80% of the reading test taken
from the Star Tribune? (It is.)  What kind of worldview do you see
represented? (See http://mredcopac.org/arti0018.htm).   Note the
content that is absent, such as, readings about our constitution,
unalienable rights, private property, free markets or national
sovereignty, for example.

Note particularly the question and answers to the 10th grade writing
test which critics have called invasive.

If there is any part of the tests you find objectionable, speak out.
You may contact state senator and representative, your school board
members, the Department of Children, Families and Learning, your
school administration, other parents and letters to the editor.

2. NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE BASIC SKILLS TEST.
The Basic Skills Tests measure "functional literacy," according to
state education staff. The "academics" they test are those that should
have been taught in 6th grade.  Passing scores fluctuate according
to levels established by the Department of Children, Families and
Learning, so the validity of the passing scores is forever questionable.

The Basic Skills Tests also assess and record the beliefs and values of
every test participant.  This information becomes part of the students'
permanent electronic record, a record that is available to all levels of
government. The Basic Skills Reading Test is taken entirely from
newspaper articles, articles that reflect the new national curriculum.
(See "Testing and Data Collection," http://mredcopac.org/arti0025.htm)

Is your private school giving the Basic Skills Test and telling the
students they are required to take it?  Explain your objections to the
principal and opt your child out.  Many private schools think that by
participating in the Basic Skills Tests, they are demonstrating the
superior education private schools provide.  In fact, they are
allowing state and federal government to monitor and track the beliefs
and values of your child.

The tests themselves are also teaching tools that inculcate values and
beliefs.  Preparing for the tests usually includes assigning articles
provided to schools by the Star Tribune as test preparation.  There is
no reason that private schools should be using the StarTribune as its
curriculum.

3. YOU MAY OPT YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILD OUT OF THE MCAs.   Government
intends all students to be assessed, so you and your child may come
under enormous pressure to take part.  Some parents take the heat. 
Others are unwilling to endure the difficulties they and their child
often face, sometimes from teachers and sometimes from administrators
in opting out.  This is a decision parents must make for themselves.

REFUSING TO PARTICIPATE IN MCAs IS MOST EFFECTIVE
WHEN SEVERAL FAMILIES AGREE TOGETHER TO OPT OUT.


4. YOU ARE