Analysis finds Profile too short on details

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2000

The Associated Press


Tuesday, November 14, 2000

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ST. PAUL (AP) – An analysis of Minnesota’s Profile of Learning concludes that the graduation standards are too short on detail and need firmer control by central government.

Consultants hired by the state give good marks to the Profile’s ideals of teaching problem-solving and research skills, but say the Profile sacrifices the teaching of important facts in history, literature and other key subjects because it emphasizes how students learn, not what they learn.

The yearlong analysis mirrors other criticisms of the Profile and reflects a basic tension over the standards: The state has shied away from saying precisely what students need to learn in the Profile to avoid being seen as dictating a statewide curriculum.

The Legislature last spring gave even more flexibility to districts to decide how to implement the Profile.

Overall, the report by Achieve Inc. and the Council of Basic Education may do little to sway Profile critics or buoy supporters. Detractors may agree the Profile lacks detail, but they won’t like Achieve’s remedy to tighten department of education authority over the standards.

Supporters will enjoy the praise the report heaps on the Profile’s attempt to measure what students learn through performances or projects, rather than just sit-down exams. But they may not like Achieve’s conclusion that a student could reach the ninth grade without studying the American Revolution, American Indians in Minnesota or other basic history.

"The glass is half-full or half-empty depending on how you look at it," said House Education Finance Committee Chairwoman Alice Seagren, R-Bloomington. "Some people will look at it as validating the Profile, and others will look at it and say it shows that (the Profile) emphasizes process over content."

With the next legislative session two months away, Seagren said it was too early to say how lawmakers will react to the report. But House members will likely conduct a hearing on the issue, she said.

Launched in 1998, the Profile calls on students to prove through projects or performances that they understand what they are taught. Instead of requiring course credits, Minnesota would require kids to show what they had learned by meeting standards that ranged from interpreting literature and analyzing algebraic patterns to "community interaction" and "interpersonal communication."

Lawmakers this year agreed to let districts set the number of Profile of Learning standards required to graduate, although schools must still offer opportunities to meet all the standards whether or not they are required.