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Minnesota Opinion: On math standards

An excerpt from recent editorials in Minnesota newspapers:

From the Associated Press

On second thought, the Minnesota Legislature decided that the state's GRAD math test wasn't ready for prime time.

The test, consisting of 40 questions embedded within the 85-question MCA-II math exam taken a few weeks ago by 11th-graders across the state, was supposed to be a requirement for graduation for the class of 2010. Students who failed it this time would have received remedial instruction and had multiple chances over the next year to take the test again. If they still failed the exam, their diplomas would have been withheld.

But that threat no longer exists. After hearing dire predictions about massive failure rates -- two-thirds of this year's graduating seniors failed the MCA math exam when they were juniors -- the Legislature opted for a "three strikes and you're OK" plan. Students who fail the math GRAD exam three times will get their diplomas, provided they've met all other graduation requirements.

It's easy to argue that the Legislature was being too easy on both students and the schools they attend. This is a results-oriented world, and a diploma should imply a certain level of academic competence. ...

Furthermore, if we're going to hold our teachers accountable for their students' performance, it makes sense to make sure that students are well motivated to do their best on standardized tests.

Those who would make the above arguments are likely saying "I told you so!" right now, be-cause 57 percent of juniors passed the GRAD math exam on their first try.

We have a theory as to why.

When 11th-graders sat down to take their MCA-II exams in April, they thought their diplomas were at stake. Never before had the stakes been this high for so many students, and the Legisla-ture's recent about-face doesn't change the fact that this new batch of test scores will be the most accurate measure of high schoolers' math ability that Minnesota has ever had.

... Given that the majority of students passed this test the first time they took it, we hope and expect that the Legislature will quickly reinstate the graduation requirement.

-- Post-Bulletin of Rochester