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by AP in the AP, Crookston Times, La Cross Tribune on Sunday, September 6, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — High-stakes standardized testing should be limited to students in the fifth and eighth grades so teachers can invest more time on broader learning, according to a report released Monday by the Minnesota teachers’ union.

Education Minnesota’s report comes as state and federal lawmakers are considering changes to standardized tests, which many states, including Minnesota, use to evaluate teachers. In Minnesota, the state Department of Education and school districts have said they’d administer fewer tests that take time away from learning. Congress is also rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires that every student be tested.

“Too many policy debates are shaped by people who don’t work in schools,” union President Denise Specht said. “We believe it’s time to bring in experts, educators, to make policy recommendations that are grounded in their real work experiences.”

Proctor elementary school teacher Elizabeth Proepper, one of the report’s authors, told the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1FsYGZ8 ) reducing the number of exams would save money and the state could then invest in a more well-rounded assessment.
“It should not just be an A or B selection, but students should be assessed on showing their thinking process,” Proepper said. “It could be a writing piece or a project. There are many varied assessments that are better than a multiple-choice test.”

Testing advocates say these exams are necessary to evaluate student progress and hold teachers accountable. They also say the exams can identify achievement gap for minorities.

One of the report’s key findings is that tests should be limited to two years. “Testing in fifth grade allows for an assessment of where students are as they leave elementary school, and testing in eighth grade allows for a similar assessment at the end of middle school,” the report said.

Daniel Sellers, executive director of MinnCAN, an education advocacy group that is often at odds with the union, agreed there’s too much testing and tests should be redesigned, but said students need annual testing so educators can be held accountable.

“They want to get rid of the one test that is actually measuring achievement gaps and helping us understand where we need to make investments to improve education,” Sellers said.


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