Fairmont will still require testing

FAIRMONT – The state of Minnesota no longer requires seniors to pass tests in order to complete their high school careers.

But Fairmont High School isn’t letting students off the hook so easily.

Superintendent Joe Brown says the district reserves the right to determine what is required for graduation, and the curriculum committee has voted to keep the tests in place for the class of 2014.

Students take the GRAD assessments throughout their high school careers, with a writing component in ninth grade, reading in 10th grade and math in 11th.

Seniors who have not passed one or more of the tests are able to re-test.

“It is important [seniors] understand they still need to pass,” said school board member Nicole Green.

Historically, local students have done well on the tests.

“Fairmont has never had to withhold a diploma due to the state test,” said Mary Cole, district assessment coordinator.

This year’s freshmen will not need to take the writing component, as the state has already phased out that test. Cole said other grade levels are already in the process of testing.

Brown said the state will offer a new test to meet the requirements after the GRAD tests are phased out. In the meantime, the district is considering its options.

Two tests came to the forefront of conversation recently as district policy committee members considered which direction to go.

The ACT, a college admission test, is a common assessment taken by high school juniors, and is accepted by every college in the United States, according to Scott Gerdes, high school counselor. The test assesses a student’s English, math, reading, science and, optionally, writing skills, and would meet the state’s college readiness assessment requirement.

According to Gerdes, 75 percent of the district’s students already take the test.

The Accuplacer is another option for the district. It is given to measure a student’s college readiness in math, writing and reading.

Students taking a college in the schools class already take this test.

If all juniors were required to take the ACT, the cost to the district would be about $7,000 per year.

The benefit would be that all students would take the same test, allowing them to be compared nationally to other students. In addition, those students who don’t take the test now would have the chance.

Cole has seen students take the ACT with no intentions of going to college be encouraged by their score.

“Taking the ACT can open the doors for some kids that don’t know there is a door to open,” she said.

The district has until the end of this school year to determine how it will handle the graduation test requirement for next year’s seniors.

“We will make a recommendation by the end of the school year for those graduates in 2015 and beyond,” Brown said.