Minnesota News

Minn. task force: Get rid of high-stakes math exam

WINONA, Minn. - A Minnesota education task force is urging the state to get rid of a high-stakes math test that high schoolers will soon have to pass to graduate.

It's an exam that less than half of the state's 11th-graders passed last year.

Minnesota high school juniors take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or MCA, math test every year.

But Winona Senior High School math teacher Kathryn Wade said the state's plan to make passing that exam into a graduation requirement is too much pressure.

"I think it's important for kids to display that they know or have learned something. I just don't feel likes the stakes should be so high," said Wade.


Right now, if a junior takes the math MCA and fails, that student will be required to remediate and re-test.

They can take the test up to three times. If they still can't pass, their transcript will show it, but they can still graduate.

That all changes for the students who are currently sophomores, but will take the test as juniors next school year. Those students will have to pass the MCA math exam to get their diplomas.

Wade said the questions on the exam just don't match up with the math people use in their everyday lives, and she doesn't think the average adult could pass it.

"Even something as simple as an absolute value problem, it's not a normal, everyday thing that a student would have to do," said Wade.

Just slightly more than a quarter of the 11th-graders in the Winona Area School District passed the math exam last year.

"We were below the state average by quite a bit," said the school district's curriculum director, Jenny Bushman.

She said that number could change if the students knew they had to pass the test to graduate.

"The students that are taking that assessment know, for the most part, that they don't have to pass it. So there is always a factor, I think, when you put in that, yes, you have to pass this. You don't know how that's going to impact the number of kids that are proficient or not," said Bushman.

Wade said time is running out if the state is going to make a change to the graduation requirement.

"The year is next year. The kids who are currently sophomores are expected to pass this test to graduate. I just feel that we're not prepared for that right now," said Wade.

The state education task force that's recommending against the MCA math exam would like to see it replaced with other tests designed to help students prepare for a job or college.

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