State to shift testing requirements for middle, high school students

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The Minnesota Education Department has reached an agreement Iowa-based American College Testing to provide middle and high schools with tests to determine college and career readiness for the state's students. The state will pay $13.5 million for the assessments, which begin next school year.

The Pioneer Press reports the tests will replace GRAD exams students previously had to pass prior to graduation. In the most recent session, lawmakers okayed a measure that requires school districts to perform assessments to determine if students are prepared for higher education or the workforce before leaving high school.

Eighth- and 10th-graders will take the new ACT-developed tests to see if they are on track to score well on the ACT college entrance exams students typically take in their junior year. Kevin McHenry, the state's assistant education commissioner who oversees testing, said the system will identify students college readiness at a younger age by giving them new information about skills they will need.

"The plan all along has been to think beyond high school and prepare students for life after high school," McHenry said. "It's a mind-set change."

Karen Hynick, who oversees college readiness for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, says MNSCU plans to communicate ACT scores that predict college success. On the 36 point scale, scores at or above 18 are needed for college math, 21 is needed in reading and 22 in English.

According to the statistics compiled by the ACT, about 75 percent of Minnesota students (44,676 of high school graduates in the state) already take the ACT. The testing service adds that the number of Minnesota students taking the test is on the rise; from 2009 to 2013, the number of ACT test-taking graduates increased by 2.4 percent, while the number of Minnesota graduates fell by 5.8 percent.

Last August, MPR News reported that Minnesota students topped the list of highest ACT scores in the country for the eighth consecutive year. The story said that 2013 graduates scored an average of 23 on their ACT, the highest in the nation among states where a majority of students take the college readiness test and about two points above the national average.

Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have higher overall scores, but far fewer students in those states take the ACT than do in Minnesota.

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