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MCAs: Profile Testing Troubles Legislative Hearing Scheduled

June 16, 2002

A Minnesota House education hearing will address the budget-cutting move by the Department of Children, Families and Learning (CFL) to postpone scoring the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) because "there is not sufficient money to grade them." The delay will postpone until October scoring the results of the exams students completed this Spring, making them virtually useless for teachers and school administrators.

The MCAs are the primary enforcement mechanism of the Profile of Learning. They measure how each district, school and teacher is implementing the restructured educational system and its federal curriculum. Rewards and sanctions are based on MCA results.

The MCAs have been criticized for monopolizing classroom instruction time, squeezing already strapped teachers who are attempting to maintain an academic curriculum. Much classroom instruction time is also often spent "practice testing" with students.

The MCAs do not test the knowledge or accomplishment of individual students. MCAs measure the progress of the Profile of Learning. They are a "system check" to measure implementation. They do not contribute to a student's graduation.

MCAs are given in the third and fifth grades for reading and math, in the fifth grade for writing, and in the 10th grade for writing. This year additional MCAs were added for the 10th grade in reading and 11th grade in math.

A quiet resistance is rapidly gaining ground among families as it begins to sink in that the testing mania is a key mechanism for forcing the Profile of Learning into place. MCAs are not a graduation requirement.

Students and parents in a number of schools greeted the 2002 testing with refusal to participate. Last April, for example, about half the junior class of Southwest High School in Minneapolis just didn't show up for their MCA in math, because they recognized that the tests were unrelated to their own achievement.

Roughly two-thirds of the Maple River School District in southern Minnesota (unrelated to MREdCo) stayed home for their MCA testing day in May at their parents' urging. Hastily organized parent telephone networking spread the word the night before testing that the students would stay home. Other more individualized resistance occurred in schools throughout the state as individual parents kept their students home on MCA testing days.

When significant numbers of students do not participate in the MCAs, the tests become useless. The same can be said for the federal NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). Voluntary participation is a prerequisite for the tests' validity. The NAEP test is the key enforcement tool at the federal level for the new education system.

Spokespersons for the Minnesota school administrators organizations and the president of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, held a news conference last October to make the case that "test data take too long to get to schools and is insufficient for teachers and principals to help students and improve instruction." (Star Tribune, October 23, 2001)

An announcement that scoring would be even further delayed, rendering 2002 MCA test results virtually useless to teachers and administrators, was released on May 17, 2002 by the department. Most schools had already completed their testing or were in its throes.

The Star Tribune reported that "school and teacher advocates also are concerned about how much time testing has taken away from teaching. Days of testing activity can short-circuit learning for not only those grades being tested, but others in the school as well, they said."

"'If you are spending two to four days testing fifth-graders, you also cause a breakdown in the education process for third-graders, fourth-graders and sixth-graders,' said Charles Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators."

"...Schools are bracing for yet another wave of testing," as the new, expanded federal mandate, No Child Left Behind, begins to take effect. No Child Left Behind requires annual testing of students in every grade. For Minnesota, this expanded federal role in the classroom means that the Profile of Learning MCAs will be expanded dramatically.

Such onerous federal directives fly in the face of the continual insistence by state administrators and legislators that the Profile of Learning is not federally driven.

Candidates for U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate need to understand that the No Child Left Behind federal testing requirements passed this year are an expansion of the Profile of Learning in Minnesota. Every year since 1998 the Minnesota House has voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Profile. This year, the Minnesota Senate came within one vote of passing its repeal, as well. Our representatives in Washington should not be out of step with our legislators in St. Paul!

State and federal elected officials who say that they oppose the Profile of Learning but yet support the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind are either ignorant of how the Profile is being forced upon Minnesota or they are intentionally misleading the public.

No Child Left Behind testing mandates = expanding MCA testing in Minnesota to every year.

MCA tests = accountability to the Profile of Learning.

Only one Congressman in Minnesota voted in favor of No Child Left Behind. They understood the ire of voters in Minnesota. Yet most of them continue to support its testing mandates. Some simply demand more federal money to implement them.

Hearing Scheduled

Tuesday, June 25
9:30 a.m.

Minnesota House Education Plicy Committee
200 State Office Building
Chr. Rep. Harry Mares

Agenda: Graduation Standards requirements.
Grading of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs).
Other items to be determined. Open to the public.

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