Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

Minnbest is a non-partisan, broad based coalition of parents, educators and school advocacy groups who believe excellent public education is a foundation of democracy in America.

5/25/2004

Education Minnesota's view of the Standards

Jenni Norlin Weaver, from Edina, is one of our state's best curriculum people, so MinnBEST is glad she was part of the final process.
The standards are so-so. They are not inspiring in any way, so why was is so hard to get such a simple document? If the former Commissioner was smart and qualified to do her job, it should have been a cake-walk, but she made it into a battle. It was a battle that was won for the children of Minnesota. She could have listened to people who know what they are doing and kept her job.


New standards are a compromise

By Linda Owen, Communications Specialist

The passage of new science and social studies standards ended a contentious, months-long debate, particularly over history standards. The new standards will take effect in the 2005-06 school year.

Statewide tests will measure student's achievement of the science standards; there are currently no plans for a statewide test in social studies.

The main change in the final version of the science standards is the deletion of controversial House language on alternatives to the theory of evolution. The history and social studies standards, however, underwent a last-minute rewriting that left no time for floor debate.

The final version is a compromise between the fact-oriented House version and the more analytical approach passed by the Senate. It was developed in the final days of the session by a group that included Minnesota Department of Education staff, content specialists, curriculum directors and a few classroom teachers.

"After the Senate passed the [education] policy bill, the Senate, House and governor's office agreed we needed to get advice, particularly from curriculum directors, about ways in which a compromise could be developed," said Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins.

Rep. Alice Seagren, R-Bloomington, who chairs the House Education Finance Committee, said the U.S. history standards in kindergarten through eighth grade are closer to the House version, while the high school standards are closer to the Senate version.

The world history standards are a blend of the two versions, and the committee chairs agreed they wound up with too many benchmarks. "I think there needs to be some paring down, but there wasn't time to do it," Seagren said.

Overall, the number of benchmarks was reduced by about 10 percent, she said. However, the total for all grades and all social studies areas is still more than 400. And there is still concern about the number of benchmarks for grades K-3, where teachers are focusing on teaching reading and math, said Jenni Norlin-Weaver, director of teaching and learning for the Edina schools, who followed the standards writing process closely.

But on the plus side, Norlin-Weaver said, the new standards are more flexible than previous versions, and they will not require districts to get rid of good curriculum materials they are already using. Districts will have more latitude on when to teach Minnesota history and how to place high school social studies requirements, she said.