Many metro-area students fail test

ST. PAUL (AP) — The test results are in, and many of the state’s eighth-grade students failed.
Thirty-seven percent of Minnesota’s eighth-grade students didn’t pass a basic reading test, and 24 percent failed a math test, according to statewide results released Tuesday. Some districts released their results last week.
“Overall, the results were less than spectacular,” said Commissioner Bruce Johnson of the Department of Children, Families and Learning.
In general, students in the Twin Cities did worse than students in other parts of the state. The tests were designed to measure skills expected to be learned by the eighth grade and considered basic to survival as an adult.
The tests were the first round of statewide testing, as a preliminary step to implementing the state’s new graduation standards. Students who are in eighth grade this year will be the first crop of students required to pass both tests in order to receive a high school diploma with their class in 2001.
Although the students will have four more years to pass the tests, Johnson said the tests covered material that every eighth-grade student should know already.
“These are basic, functional skills,” Johnson said.
Fifty-three percent of the students in urban Minneapolis and St. Paul districts failed the math test, and 60 percent failed the reading test.
Johnson said the scores show the need for changes, including merit pay and in curriculum. But he said the changes need to be system-wide and might differ from district to district.
Minnesota already spends a high proportion of its budget on education. In the current two-year budget ending June 1997, the state is spending slightly more than $6 billion on K-12 education, or 32 percent of the state’s general fund budget, according to the Department of Finance.
“In the past, money has been regarded as the silver bullet that would fix things,” Johnson said. “Money alone is not going to change this situation.”