Audit: Unclear payoff from time Minnesota spent on testing

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

ST. PAUL — More than half of the state’s schools spent at least three weeks last year preparing students for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments test, according to a report the state’s legislative auditor released Monday that gives new ammunition to critics of standardized testing.

The nonpartisan office laid out a number of recommendations and urged the state to conduct more in-depth studies to determine the effectiveness of standardized tests.

According to the report, the hours devoted to testing often did little because more than half of the teachers and principals in the state don’t feel confident in their ability to analyze the scores.

Email newsletter signup

In fiscal year 2016, Minnesota spent over $19 million in fiscal year 2016 on testing. Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, said that number falls far short of the true cost. Teachers often lead test preparation, administer tests and score written sections by hand. That work isn’t included in the final price tag, he said.

Education Minnesota, the largest teacher’s union in the state, criticized the state’s testing process in a press release Monday.

“One thing is obvious after reading this report. The taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from this sprawling system of state and local standardized testing,” president of Education Minnesota, Denise Specht said in a prepared statement.

Though the majority of the report focused on areas needing further study, the audit did note that some past attempts by lawmakers to improve testing haven’t worked.

The report recommended legislators to repeal a law requiring the Minnesota Department of Education to give a career and college readiness score to elementary and middle school students. The report says those scores look so far into the future that they provide little insight into a student’s progress.

The Legislature should also remove legal requirements that delve too far into specific testing rules and should instead focus on creating overarching guidelines for all tests in the state, according to the report.