This apparently, is good news in education circles, even though 1 out of 4 students in Minnesota schools can't read well enough to pass a test.
Why is that good news? Because a year ago, only 62 percent of the kids could read well enough to pass the test.
Keep in mind, however, that we're talking different kids here. Last year's sophomores were this year's juniors. Maybe it was just a bad year for reading.
But Education Commissioner Alice Seagren has a different view:
"The significant jump in this year's Reading MCA-II scores can in large part be attributed to the fact that the graduation requirement was embedded into the MCA-II assessment, which provided extra incentive for students to take the assessment seriously," Commissioner Seagren said.
Apparently, it's easier to pass a test if you give a rip about graduating.
Where do these kids go wrong? And how dependable are tests to tell us? Consider this: In 2005, 8th graders in Minnesota showed 85 percent passing the reading exam. Those eighth graders were last year's sophomores, only 62-percent of whom passed the reading test for sophomores.
As cheery as the news release's headline sounds, the numbers behind it signal a sad reality. A lot of Minnesota kids, not far from going out on their own, can't read well.
This year's sophomores were 2006's 8th graders. How did they do then? Not that great. And next year's sophomores weren't setting the world afire in the subject, either.
All of this comes days after a study showed Minnesota's graduation rate for black students falling
Most of the news organizations have focused on the 71 percent overall figure.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to find a sample copy of the test so we can all see how hard -- or not -- passing is.(13 Comments)
A News Cut reader, specially imported from the state of Wisconsin, picks up on my riff last week about why Twin Citians are so quick to ignore Wisconsin. It's 18 miles away as the crow flies but we'll pay attention a story 200 miles away before we'll pay attention to what's going on "over there" on a daily basis.
"Look, Bob, there was bad weather in Wisconsin! Before this weekend, even." she writes.
She's right, sending along the link to the New Richmond News, which details stories of damage on the old sod at the same time a tornado was ripping up Hugo.(3 Comments)
The ferry service between Winona and Wisconsin began today. It's the only way residents on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi can make it to work or shopping on the Minnesota side -- thus the willingness of Minnesota to pay to get them there. The bridge spanning the bridge was closed by Minnesota last week.
At first, the pricetag of $85,000 a week seems a hefty sum to pay to move the estimated 2,800 Wisconsinites across the river. That works out to $30 per person per week, and the odds are those people put more than $30 a week into the Winona economy. According to one report today, some businesses in Winona report sales have dropped 25 percent since the bridge closed. The people using the service will pay $15 a week, so half the cost is recouped.
There are 17 trips a day to Winona in the morning and 17 from Winona in the afternoon.
One-hundred-seventy trips a week at $85,000 works out to $500 per trip.
As ferries go, it's not an exhorbitant amount. The Madeline Island Ferry, for example, charges $11 round trip, and everybody -- even kids -- pay. In Winona, you can take up to 3 kids on the ferry on your pass at no additional charge. It falls far short, however, of the best bargain in New York -- the Staten Island Ferry, which is free.(2 Comments)
Thanks to the communications department at the Minnesota Department of Education, we've got a sample of the Minnesota reading test I referenced in the post earlier today.
This is just one sample question, but try your luck at it . First, read the following editorial from the Star Tribune:
It's pointless at this late date to lay blame for the sports facilities mess Minnesota now faces. Let's just say that no other metropolitan area has amassed a more illogical stadium/arena configuration.
Based on national trends, the optimal arrangement is this:
• A cozy outdoor baseball park with 40,000 seats, real grass and an atmosphere that captures the timeless charms of the great summer pastime in an urban setting.
• A 70,000-seat pro football stadium--either domed or retractable--that delivers adequate revenues to the NFL team and doubles as a convention hall and venue for a variety of big-space attractions.
• A separate outdoor, on-campus football stadium (capacity 50,000) for the local university team that wants to maintain a collegiate atmosphere.
• A single downtown sports arena (capacity 18,000) shared by NBA basketball and NHL hockey teams that doubles as a concert/convention hall.
On this test, Minnesota scores zero; it has none of the above. Rather, it has separate and competing hockey and basketball arenas and a single football revenue (the Metrodome) that satisfies neither its football tenants nor the baseball team that has endured "temporary quarters" for 18 seasons.
Unraveling this mess seems impossible given Minnesotans' fierce change of heart on helping to fund sports venues. Metropolitan Stadium, the Metrodome and Xcel Arena were all built with public money, but the mood now ices up when the Twins or Vikings enter the room. And recently the university has chimed in with a plea for its own oncampus football stadium.
But again, none of this should surprise Minnesotans, given this state's irrational sports setup. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, designed to bring order, has been unable to prevent chaos. And so teams and cities are left to freelance. The ever-growing popularity of sports has created space issues for the state of Minnesota.
Minneapolis interests continue to investigate a small-scale, privately funded urban ballpark, possibly in the Warehouse District. A financing plan is expected to be announced. . . . The Twins, meanwhile, have their own citizen-based study underway that may, or may not, merge with the Minneapolis effort by year's end.
As for football, the Vikings want a joint deal with the university, but the university worries that a big, domed, ultra-commercial NFL stadium would spoil the collegiate atmosphere it wants. Successful college programs in NFL cities (Boston College, Georgia Tech, Cal, Washington) have been careful to retain their own venues.
To complete the picture, Minneapolis now struggles to afford $30 million of improvements so Target Center can compete with its sparkling new, state-funded rival in St. Paul. And the Metrodome slouches toward monster trucks and pro rasslin' jamborees.
Idealists keep claiming that the public is fed up with subsidizing pro sports; that Americans have finally resolved to say no. But they haven't. Voters in Phoenix, Houston and Green Bay just approved new playpens. Philadelphia last week decided to move ahead on two new stadiums. Eleven are now under construction, adding to the 49 built in the 1990s--with two-thirds of the cost borne by the public. The boom continues unabated.
Perhaps Minnesota's stadium mess cannot be fixed, given the toxic political atmosphere. Fatigue has set in. But Minnesotans must also understand that their sports configuration runs opposite to the national market--and that's why teams and a few die-hard citizens feel compelled to keep pressing for change.
OK, good job, you've read down this far, but did you retain what you read. Let's find out. Answer these questions and ignore the varying formatting: that's just me flunking the state's comprehensive html standards.
But wait! There's more. There's a seventh question that calls for a written answer, with the student stating at least four causes of the stadium mess that the author mentions.
There are 38 questions in all. The full sample, including a scoring system for the "in your own words" answers can be found here.
By the way Education Commissioner Alice Seagren will be Gary Eichten's 11 a.m. guest on Tuesday's Midday on MPR.
(H/T: Randy Wanke, Brianna Chambers)