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New state tests are in the works

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- First came the new academic standards, now comes the new tests.

The state Department of Education got the ball rolling Thursday on a batch of tests aligned to a new slate of school standards, with the goal of having them ready to go by 2006.

They released a draft of specifications for the new Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments to reflect the material to be taught under the state's new academic standards, which have come together over the past two years.

The public will have 30 days to comment online on the new specifications, which are posted on the Minnesota Department of Education Web site, said Tim Vansickle, director of assessment for the Department of Education. Officials will use the comments to develop the final specifications, and requests for proposals for the new tests should go out this fall, Vansickle said.

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The new tests will be called the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments II.

Ordinarily, officials said, test developers create tests and educators choose those they think best fit their standards. This time, Minnesota educators are closely involved in crafting the tests.

It's a two phase process. First they'll consider how best to measure students' knowledge and achievement; then they'll decide precisely what will be on the tests.

Teachers should not have to tailor their teaching to the tests, said Vansickle. If teachers are teaching according to the new standards, students should do well on the tests.

Until the new tests are developed and the new standards are fully implemented, the current MCA tests will continue to cover material under Minnesota's old graduation standards, the Profile of Learning. But Mary Ann Nelson, assistant education commissioner, said the current test remains a valid barometer of student learning because the material it covers overlaps with the new standards.

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