Statewide standardized testing is designed to measure academic growth. However, the increasing number of students opting out has the Minnesota Legislature looking to address this and other issues of the test.

On March 3, the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee approved a bill that would create a 14-member task force to review and consider a variety of issues related to statewide standardized testing and prepare recommended changes to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2021.

Minnesota Department of Education data indicates that from 2013 to 2019 there has been a steady increase in the number of high school students who are opting out of this testing. The increasing number of opt-outs may impact the interpretation of the school by misrepresenting the total student body.

Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina) sponsored the bill and said that standardized testing is a significant indicator of performance and is something that needs to be continually reviewed.

“I do think we do need to keep revisiting it. If we were a company we would not just ignore these numbers,” she said. “These are our students and I think we need to pay attention to the trends we’re seeing.”

“Standardized testing and its value is a complicated conversation. I am happy to hear there will be a task force created to have a deeper discussion to examine these concerns from many different lenses,” Breckenridge Public Schools Superintendent Diane Cordes said.

Those that testified at the Legislature offered a variety of reasons why students may be choosing to opt-out of the test:

• Lack of incentive because the tests do not impact their overall grade

• Test fatigue as many upperclassmen students are already dedicating time and effort to ACT and AP testing

• Bad timing with class schedule

According to High School Principal Craig Peterson, there is no significant increase in students opting out of the standardized tests. However, Cordes agreed with those in favor of the bill saying that as students get older, the motivation for taking these tests tends to decline as the students see a limited value for themselves in their scores.

“Senior High students tell us they would rather put energy into the assessments they feel are important for their personal futures, such as the ACT or Accuplacer exams,” Cordes said. “My hope is the task for will be a well-rounded group of people with strong representation from E-12 education including students.”

“I do know some schools in our Western division that have had a lot more that opt-out of state testing, we are very fortunate in Breckenridge that haven’t because we talk with our students and the families about the growth that this is a good growth model and we work at it,” Peterson said. “Standardized tests are good and our MCAs give us that measurement of academic growth but one test shouldn’t be it. I’d like to see multiple tests throughout the school year to measure academic growth.”

“It’s always important to look at what we are doing and evaluate if what we are doing is the right way or if there is room for improvement,” Elementary Principal Corinna Erickson said.

The bill now heads to the Government Operations Committee for approval. The companion Senate bill awaits action by Senate E-12 Finance and Policy committee.

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