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m9635 BC-MN-ScienceTest 09-03 0451

Statewide science exam for Minn. students this year

ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota students will sit for the first statewide science exam this year.

The test is considered the next step in the state’s expanding testing and accountability system. It will be given in grades five and eight and once in high school.

State education officials started designing the test in the spring of 2004, about a year after Minnesota revised its science standards for schools. The design cost $3.7 million

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to test students in science, but schools aren’t punished if their students don’t score well.

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Some administrators and science teachers applaud the new test. They hope it will put a spotlight on beefed-up science instruction and get more kids excited about the subject.

"There’s more of a tendency to let science slip behind math and reading," said John Olson, science program manager for St. Paul schools. "I think science will be taken a little more seriously."

Others worry that schools are spending too much money on testing and not enough on teaching. There is also concern that with the emphasis on gauging student performance on tests of reading, math and science while other subjects such as art, music and physical education may suffer.

"There is more of a focus on literacy and numeracy. And that’s important," said P. Fred Storti, executive director of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association. "But we spend more money on testing coordinators and administering tests. Sometimes, I worry that we’re spending more money on testing and less on teaching."

In St. Paul, Washington Technology Middle School Principal Mike McCollor said seventh- and eighth-graders take a full year of science instead of a half-year to make sure they meet the new state science standards.

"We have to keep examining what we’re doing to prepare students for today’s world," said McCollor, a former science teacher. "Science, technology, math — they’re big now. And we want to get kids excited about that."

Joe Beattie, a biology teacher at Hastings High School, said he wants to make sure students are tested on content as well as their ability to analyze the material.

He said state standards have improved the science curriculum, and testing has raised the profile of the subject in schools.

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However, he said testing isn’t everything.

"It isn’t the end all, be all," Beattie said. "Just because you have more testing doesn’t mean you have better students."

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

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