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Profile of Learning Repealed!

May 21, 2003

At 3:00 a.m. last Saturday morning the House/Senate conference committee reached their agreement on a repeal of the Profile. Last night, the Profile of Learning repeal passed the Senate, and then the House, just before the midnight adjournment deadline for the 2003 regular session.

It was truly a historic day, as 64 Senators voted for the repeal. Only Senators Pogemiller, Chaudhary and Moua voted no. Senator Pogemiller, chief architect and defender of the Profile, clung to it to the end. Did you ever think it would happen?

The House voted 125 to 9 to repeal. Opponents were Reps Bernardy, Clark, Greiling, Hausman, Kahn, Mariani, Thao, Wagenius, and Walker.

DEBATE:
Some of the debate was classic:

Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I notice that when the House passed the Profile last February, the parameters for the new standards required that they be based on factual, objective, verifiable knowledge. This bill has removed the words factual and verifiable. Senator Kelly, why would you remove those requirements from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Senator Bachmann, when students are learning to write they are learning a skill. A skill isn't factual or verifiable."

Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I also notice that the House parameters for the standards required that they preserve and promote fundamental American principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. This bill has removed the words 'preserve and promote' and the 'Declaration of Independence.' Senator Kelly, why would you remove the Declaration of Independence from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Sen. Bachmann, the Declaration has no legal status in defining people's rights and privileges."

Bachmann: "Sen. Kelley, what do we celebrate every 4th of July? The Declaration defines our rights and our freedom. I am shocked that you would remove that as a basis of our education standards."

In fact, in a shocking conference committee subterfuge, Senator Kelley had at one point literally deleted ALL of the standards' parameters, without the knowledge or consent of the House conferees. Those parameters were the core of the House repeal effort, because they defined how the new standards would be different from the Profile standards.

At about 1:00 a.m. that Saturday morning, as the conferees were ready to adopt their agreement, MREdCo PAC testified to the committee that without these parameters, we could not recommend the bill. Only then did the House members recognize the parameters were missing.

The House protested that their agreement left the parameters in the bill. Sen. Kelley denied it had been part of their agreement. After nearly two hours behind closed doors, the two sides agreed to put SOME of the parameters back in the bill. But Senator Kelley's line in the sand was "promoting and preserving the Declaration of Independence. He would have none of it.

If we ever wondered what this education battle is about, Senator Kelley made it clear. Promoting and preserving the Declaration, natural law, national sovereignty (both found within the Declaration) and free market enterprise were all words he insisted would remain OUT of the parameters of our education standards. This incident demonstrates that the battle we face is only begun with this victory repeal.

PROFILE GONE
The Profile of Learning system of education in Minnesota is gone. The federal curriculum of the Profile is no longer required. Performance assessments are not required. A system of credit for high school graduation replaces the Profile performance assessments. The rubrics grading system is gone. Diversity training is no longer part of the state standards.

Does this mean that academic, knowledge-based education will miraculously appear full bloom in all our public schools next Fall? No, it does not. But we are heading in that direction.

WHAT DIDN'T WE GET
The new math and language-arts standards could be stronger. The Commissioner traveled the state with the first draft of those standards, and they underwent substantial revisions. Phonics, spelling and math became weaker. The new standards take a tremendous step, however, toward re-establishing knowledge-based education in Minnesota.

Withdrawing from NCLB was not on the legislator's table. For fear of losing federal money, the massive system of annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school is underway in Minnesota beginning in the 2005/2006 school year. Legislation for a cost analysis of implementing NCLB is still in the education policy omnibus bill that wasn't completed. That item may be taken up in the Special Session.

Because we are under the mandates of NCLB, schools that do not test at least 95% of students will be identified as "failing." For this reason, schools may now assign "consequences" to test taking. Schools may choose to use test results as one measure of passing. Schools may also choose to put test scores on transcripts.

WHAT LIES AHEAD:
In many ways, the battle now shifts to the local level. Districts are free to determine their standards for all curriculum except math, language arts, science, and social studies. There will be statewide tests to meet the testing requirements of No Child Left Behind in math, language-arts and science. There will be no statewide annual tests in any other area.

The Commissioner will make a recommendation next year for exit exams in certain areas. We'll be tracking that.

New state standards must be developed in science and social studies. Annual tests (MCAs) aligned with the new academic standards of math and language arts must be developed. New teacher training requirements must be drafted to align them with the academic expectations.

In short, this bill has set us on a road. It gives us the vehicle and the map. But there are enormously rocky ways ahead. The new standards and tests will be in constant conflict with the drive for the federal content, the federal curriculum, the redefining of our principles of freedom and the undermining of genuine education. This victory does not eliminate School-to-Work, which appears to be moving ahead with breakneck speed.

We gained this beginning success by being there, showing up at the meetings, at the Capitol, at the public hearings. We have been a powerful presence in Minnesota politics, because we equip citizens with the facts. The Profile is one big piece of the education restructuring. It isn't all of it. Stay tuned.

And take time to thank all those legislators who put this bill in place and supported it on its way. In particular, Senators Bachmann & Gen Olson, Reps. Kielkucki, Buesgens, Sykora, and Seagren, Governor Pawlenty and Commissioner Yecki. There are many more. Let them hear from you!

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