Math tests not adding up to graduation for Minnesota students

Minnesota has new graduation standards for math and thousands of Minnesota high schoolers aren’t going to pass them. What should the state do? Prevent them from graduating and keep them in school until they get it right? Or change the law and allow them to move on?

The current crop of seniors is the first class to graduate — maybe — under the new rules.

“The bottom line is that the majority of Minnesota’s 11th-graders are probably not going to meet the proficiency level,” Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, told the Mankato Free Press. He’s filed legislation to give the two-thirds of the students who took — and failed — the test an option to graduate with math remediation.

Not everyone likes the idea. “If we go in this direction, we’re largely taking a leap of faith at this point,” Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul told MPR’s Tom Weber earlier this month. “It’s not going to be informed by any data or research. I’m not seeing the rationale behind that, and I don’t want to make a decision just to make a decision. I think we have to slow things down and explore things further.”

The trouble is the clock is ticking for the class of 2010.

Part of the problem is schools are still developing curricula for the standards that are already being employed.

“Parents don’t know this is even coming down the pipeline,” Edina School Board member Peyton Robb told a hearing at the Capitol in December. “Basically, they’re going to be faced with this result at the end of their 11th grade year. Their senior year is likely to be trashed, in large part, because of the remediation that will be needed.”

If you’re a Minnesota high school senior caught up in this, please contact me.

  • bigalmn

    Another reason to work on reform of school managment so that one set of administration can cover more schools and use less resources to develop cirriculum to provide a better education.

    I still find it amazing that home schooled students continue to score above public school students in these tests. Maybe it is because they get a more focused education based on their needs vs. the plain vanilla education we provide in schools today.

  • bsimon

    “Minnesota has new graduation standards for math and thousands of Minnesota high schoolers aren’t going to pass them.”

    Did I see a headline last week that our NCLB standards are in the low half, nationwide? If that is true, the two reports would seem to imply that we’ve set the bar low – and still can’t beat it. Or am I mixing apples and oranges?

  • brian

    “I still find it amazing that home schooled students continue to score above public school students in these tests.”

    I think this probably due more to who is able/chooses to home school their kids than any inherent differences between home schooling and the public schools.

  • Jane Kise

    The standards cover too much breadth, unlike standards elsewhere in the world that focus on key concepts. While students who are interested in math/science careers may benefit from the curricula the standards drive, they will most likely prevent students with a natural bent for the humanities or even business from developing the kind of deep understanding of key algebraic and geometric concepts that will prove useful in real life.

    Compare the MN standards to those in countries like Singapore where test scores are off the charts and you will see the difference. Ours test trivial concepts.

    My son, who took geometry in 8th grade and finished AP calc, looked at his 11th grade MCAII math scores (he passed, incidentally) and said, “Why don’t they test us on this stuff when we learn it instead of 3 years later? And further, if I’m one of the students who is following the AP track everyone is pushing for and I barely passed the geometry section, how realistic is this? And should the knowledge being tested really be a graduation requirement when I didn’t use it in 3 more years of advanced math? This is going to be a disaster…”

  • Gary Lee

    The question of testing in 11th grade what was taught in 7th, 8th and 9th grade is apt. It is simpler and less expensive to have one big test just before graduation. That is a great way to appear to be tough on graduation standards, but it is a lousy way to determine that remediation is needed for skills missed years before in a timely fashion which might do some good. If the objective is to posture politically, or to find a big stick with which to beat students and teachers’ unions, then the 11th grade comprehensive test is meeting the objective. If, on the other hand, the objective is to ensure that students who graduate actually have the full breadth of knowledge covered by the exam, then it would seem that a far better approach would be annual tests given throughout their school career. More expensive, and not as easy to turn into sound bites and budget cuts, but more effective in educating students.