Committee

Amy Olson

After a frustrating year for teachers and students, a state legislative committee agreed to scrap the state’s $2 million graduation standard policy Tuesday.
The House Education Committee voted 25 to 9 to remove all references to the Profile of Learning, eliminate mandatory projects and reduce the number of core subjects schools are required to teach.
The existing graduation standards affect University admissions policies because school districts could forgo letter grades and grade point averages, which the University considers for admission.
The House will vote on the bill on Thursday, where legislators say it is likely to pass.
But University professor Mark Davison, from the Office of Educational Accountability, doubted the Senate would approve the bill without substantial revisions.
“It’s surprisingly divisive and polarizing,” Davison said. “Both sides have an opinion.”
After passing through the House and Senate, Gov. Jesse Ventura would need to sign the bill into law. But Education Commissioner Christine Jax warned that Ventura might not be supportive. Dropping the current standards could be a hasty move, she said.
Until the 1996-97 school year, the state required public school students to complete nine credits in core areas, including English, math, science and social studies.
The Profile of Learning replaced those core requirements with 10 broadly defined learning areas including mathematical applications, decision-making and world languages. Teachers use standardized testing in third, fifth and eighth grades to measure students’ progress.
Under the Profile of Learning, students graduating in 2002 will have to meet 24 out of 48 high school standards, in addition to passing standardized tests, in order to receive their diploma.
Critics charge that implementing the categories into the standard curriculum, as well as measuring and defining the categories, takes away precious teaching time.
“As it is currently written, the profile cannot work,” said Judy Schaubach, co-president of the state’s teachers’ union, Education Minnesota. “Fix it or get rid of it.”
Bob Meeks, president of the Minnesota School Board Association, said Minnesota’s 55,000 teachers have not had enough training to implement the standards.
In fact, Sandra Peterson, co-president of Education Minnesota, said teachers can’t even explain the process to parents.
If teachers cannot understand the standards well enough to explain them to students and parents, the system will fail, Peterson said.
Teachers also complain that the profile takes too much time away from teaching basic skills and adds excess paperwork in order to track each student’s progress.
They also blamed the Legislature for prematurely implementing the program.
Even after high school, the Profile of Learning will affect students’ educations — especially if they attended high schools that abandoned traditional grading methods.
Wayne Sigler, admissions director for the University, predicted that most school districts will probably keep the standard A-F report cards in addition to portfolios and records of students’ work demonstrating the standards.
The admissions personnel need to make good decisions in a reasonable, timely manner, Sigler said. If admissions counselors have to evaluate a portfolio of each applicant’s work instead of a graded transcript, the process could become expensive and cumbersome.
He said while the University will go along with whatever standards the Legislature mandates, the University is working with a task force to create a tracking system so schools can monitor students’ progress.
Sigler said he wants to make sure the system doesn’t work against prospective students.