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Juniors will have to pass state math test in order to graduate

By Staff | Jan 5, 2009

Dale Brandsoy

Blue Earth Area officials are concerned about a math test high schoolers must pass to graduate in 2010, however, they aren’t pushing the panic button like others across the state.

Academic counselor Gary Armon says district administrators and teachers began addressing the higher math standard requirement several years ago.

In April, 99 BEA juniors will take the state’s MCA-II math test and they’ll have to score at or above proficiency to get a diploma.

“We’ve done all we can to prepare them. We were a little bit alarmed with the state average of students passing,” says Armon.

Last spring, only one-third of Minnesota juniors statewide passed the test.

BEA students did better, with 36 percent meeting or exceeding an established standard. Twenty-three students met the new math standard, while seven exceeded it.

Armon says scores may have been lower because those taking the test did not have to pass it to graduate.

“When higher stakes are involved, students seem more interested in doing better,” he says.

Students failing the test will have only one year to pass. Results aren’t expected until July, so districts will be pressed to help those who failed.

“You have to have a requirement that is attainable for the kids. You can’t make it so cut and dry,” says Superintendent Dale Brandsoy.

BEA officials have taken steps to prepare students.

Currently, three years of math are required to get a diploma, and those going to college are encouraged to take four.

The district began offering a new course this fall for juniors. Armon says higher math standards have been built into the curriculum.

The MCA-II math test is part of the state’s Graduation Required Assessments for Diploma program that replaces the Basic Skills Tests.

The class of 2010 will be the first graduating under the new program, which includes a writing test in ninth grade, reading test in 10th and the math test in 11th.

While having a higher math proficiency is a good goal, says Armon, a student’s abilities shouldn’t depend on just one test.

“I like to look at the totality of a student’s abilities … level of courses they took and extracurricular activities involved in,” he says. “There are a lot of ways to measure a student’s ability than just through testing.”

In December, the state Senate Education Committee held a hearing to gain input from top education officials.

For now, there will be no easing of the standards. Some solutions are expected to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we are going ahead as the law reads now. We have to operate within the law,” says Armon. “There’s no assurance the Legislature is going to change anything.”