Omnibus Education Policy Bill Pushes for Testing Reform

(Saint Paul, MN) Legislators gathered this morning to discuss the omnibus education policy bill proposed. One of the key policy changes suggested addresses allowing schools to opt-out of MCA Exams (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment). The issue was hotly debated as a number of legislators spoke in favor of reducing testing overall, to which Senator Branden Petersen pointed out, “What’s interesting is the desire to reduce testing, without actually expressly reducing testing.”

Senator Roger Chamberlain was against removing the MCA exams, angrily waving an article from MinnPost in the air, exclaiming, “Minneapolis teachers are lobbying the students and parents to opt-out of MCA’s – they are warning the children that if they take the MCA in Minneapolis, they’ll be missing exams, and they’ll be falling behind. This is nothing short of blackmail. They note that the teacher evaluations are tied to MCA’s as part of it, so folks, draw your own conclusions. What are we doing to our kids? Is this about performance of the children, or protection of a Teacher’s Union establishment?”

Senator Terri Bonoff responded that Senator Chamberlain’s speculations of the motives behind why the teachers were against MCA’s as being “against Senate rules” and making her uncomfortable. After the debate ensued the committee voted against reinstating MCA’s.

Senator Torres Ray then offered an amendment to allow schools to teach newly-immigrated children for two years before requiring them to be held to testing standards. The Commissioner of the Department of Education sent a representative who explained the Commissioner’s take on the issue, stating, “She (the Commissioner) does not support holding different groups of students to different accountability measures.” The amendment is still being re-drafted.

The Education omnibus policy bill is not yet complete, but it appears as though addressing Governor Dayton’s concerns of over-testing our students will be a hotly debated topic to come. Alpha News will continue to track the education policy here in Minnesota.