Plans being formed for implementing the new graduation standards

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/23/97.

The rules keep changing but in the long run, the graduation standards are good news for schools and children, according to the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.

The graduation standards are presently before a legislative law judge, George Beck, for his final approval. On Feb. 5, he will be taking public testimony on whether or not the graduation standards should be adopted.

ďAll the school districts in the state are learning about the whole rule process,Ē Danith Clausen, Paynesville curriculum coordinator, said.

The graduation standards mean that state law now requires the nuts and bolts of reading, writing and mathematics must be mastered because these skills have always helped people succeed. But beyond the basics, the standards mean that children will learn about science, history, citizenship, the arts, and more.

Most importantly, the standards emphasize focus on giving children the skills needed to keep learning and growing throughout a lifetime.

At present, the school district is figuring out which standards fit best with which courses of study. ďAll the standards are performance based. They require students to do the work through a process, produce information and share the learned information with others,Ē Clausen said.

In November, the high school faculty held an in-service to work out some of the learning areas. The teachers reviewed the standards to see which areas needed to have changes made to achieve needed requirements. Students are required to work on 24 high school standards, of which nine are required. An additional 12 standards must be chosen from specific groups of standards. The remaining three standards are electives to be chosen by the student.

The first class that must collect these 24 standards to graduate is the class of 2002, the current eighth grade class.

ďAll the standards are very performance based and students need to be actively engaged in the process to achieve the standards,Ē Clausen added. ďThe performance assessment package varies from school to school. The state approves a package which has been developed by pilot sites. However, teachers can write their own to submit to the regional panels for approval.Ē

ďWe are forming a review panel made up of teachers from Paynesville, Melrose, Eden Valley-Watkins, Kimball and Rocori. The panel can approve the package as is or make suggestions for its improvement, thus schools wonít need to write their own packages,Ē Clausen said.

ďEventually, the state wants to have a collection of standard packages in science, language arts, history, etc., that schools can pick and choose from, to plan their programs around,Ē Clausen added.

The basic standards reading and math tests are given to students in the eighth grade. Last year the writing test was given as a practice. This yearís ninth graders will need to take the writing test for the first time as tenth graders. The test is written composition and students donít really have enough writing practice skills until they reach the tenth grade, Clausen stressed. They have until the 12th grade to pass the test.

When the ninth graders were given the practice test last year they did quite well, Clausen felt. Eighty-three percent of 116 students passed the test. ďThe students knew the test didnít count. We did not eliminate any students from taking the test either, the special education students took the test along with their classmates,Ē she added.

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