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Teachers Split Over Profile's Future
by Tim Pugmire
February 29, 2000
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A coalition of education groups is urging the Minnesota Legislature to stick with the Profile of Learning graduation standards. Representatives of the organizations testified before the House Education Policy Committee, offering ways to improve the show-what-you-know system. But some teachers and parents say they still want the whole system dumped.
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See MPR's Guinea Pig Kids series for more information about the graduation standards.

THERE ARE 10 BILLS in the House this session and seven in the Senate to adjust or replace Minnesota's controversial high school graduation standards, known as the Profile of Learning. The complex system, that requires students demonstrate what they've learned through projects and performances, has been under fire since it hit classrooms a year and a half ago.

Many educators are growing weary of the debate. Four organizations, representing metro-area schools, rural educators, curriculum supervisors and school administrators are calling on lawmakers to stand firm on the Profile. Mounds View Superintendent Jan Witthuhn says the political bickering is hurting schools.
Witthuhn: Our teachers are working very hard at implementing the graduation rules and the high standards in particular. But this work becomes even more difficult when we face controversy, confusion and doubt on a regular basis. And that confusion is about whether or not the high standards are even going to exist.
Witthun and other education leaders are suggesting a few modest ways to modify the Profile of Learning to make its implementation easier for school districts.

Other school administrators are looking for more substantial changes. In testimony before the House Education Policy Committee, four superintendents outlined the waiver they're seeking from the state. The proposal includes a reduction in the required high school standards from 24 to 19, fewer standards in the elementary and middle grades and more local flexibility. Buffalo Superintendent Tom Nelson urged lawmakers to fix the Profile and move ahead.
Nelson: Everyone that we visited with along the way to making our waiver request acknowledge the Profile needs to be fixed. It's just hard to find a repair person out there.
Leaders of the statewide teachers union Education Minnesota, claim the very survival of the Profile depends on those repairs. They want a two-year moratorium on the requirements while efforts are made to ease the paperwork burden and teachers get more training. Union co-president Sandra Peterson said the Profile needs more than a little tweaking.
Peterson: The Profile of Learning as it currently stands is too complex, too convoluted and too bureaucratic. It's drastically out of sync with the day to day life in the classroom and the needs and the lives of our students. This is likely to be our last chance to make the profile work.
Despite their harsh criticism, Education Minnesota leaders says they remain committed to the Profile concept and want to see it work. Other teachers still don't share that commitment. Cheryl Moen, a teacher from LaCresent, says she wants the Legislature to shelve the whole system.
Moen: I try to instill in my students the importance of acquire the mature behavior of admitting when one has made a mistake and then learning from that mistake. Minnesota legislators I'm afraid need to learn that lesson. You've made a mistake, a big mistake, a very costly mistake.
Governor Ventura has warned lawmakers he'll veto any legislation that eliminates or drastically alters the Profile of Learning. Ventura's education commissioner, Christine Jax, supports a two-year delay before students must complete the new graduation requirements but isn't pushing for other changes. She says she's waiting to see what kind of bills come out of the House and Senate.
Jax: We are going to be open minded, listen to the dialogue, listen to the testimony, see what the Legislature comes up with, then we're going to see what we could agree with. Right now we're saying, "Convince us that 24 standards are too many, convince us that there are problems that this legislation requires." But they may be able to convince us.
Members of the House Education Policy will now wait until next Tuesday to begin hammering out a bill. The committee's chairman, Republican Representative Harry Mares, says he expects to wrap up the issue by the end of next week.