~Praises Yecke for "mission accomplished"~

Roseville -- Governor Tim Pawlenty today signed into law a bill that puts in place new academic standards for science and social studies, praising former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke for turning a major challenge into results. The new standards represent a compromise between the House and Senate versions and turned out to be one of the few accomplishments of the 2004 legislative session.

"When I asked Dr. Yecke to move home to Minnesota to lead our administration's education reform efforts, the number one challenge I laid out was to repeal the Profile of Learning and replace it with real standards," said Governor Pawlenty. "Some might say that it was the enormity of the task that made her the target of such bitter partisanship. We all can stand here today with Dr. Yecke, heads held high, proud of this major accomplishment for Minnesota."

Governor Pawlenty pointed out that Commissioner Yecke brought educators together to forge a compromise between the two different social studies documents before the DFL-controlled Senate removed her from office.

"These new standards reflect the hard work of many people and represent a giant step toward higher academic achievement," said Governor Pawlenty. "When joined with our new standards in math and reading, Minnesota has completed the transition to rigorous, grade specific standard-based instruction."

The science standards included in the bill were identical to those created by a citizen committee appointed by Commissioner Yecke and approved by the Minnesota Senate. School districts have until the 2005-06 school year to transition to the new science and social studies standards.

New tests based on the science standards will be implemented in order to comply with the requirements of No Child Left Behind. There will be no statewide test for social studies.

"I am proud of the open process we used to create these standards for Minnesota's schools," added Dr. Yecke. "Involving parents and educators in the development of the standards gives us the confidence they will be right for students for years to come."

Besides the new academic standards, the education bill (HF 1793) contained several other provisions, including:

Adding health and physical education to the Required Academic Standards for which locally developed academic standards apply.

Changing course credits requirements. Last session's bill repealing the Profile of Learning put in place new course requirements for graduation. This year, the legislature added more flexibility to the requirements for social studies including allowing economics to be taught in either a school's social studies or business department.

Protecting school districts by modifying the status of the School Report Card and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) information will now be considered "non-public" until all corrections and appeals are finished. This will prevent schools from being unfairly stigmatized as not making progress because of simple corrections needed in their student data.

Allowing students with severe food allergies and other conditions to carry life-saving medications. Students will now be allowed to carry "epi pens" with them or have access to non-syringe injectors of epinephrine provided by the parent if they are too young to administer the drug themselves.

Changes to the definition of "highly qualified teacher." Allows anyone teaching in a core academic subject (as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act), who is not fully licensed in that core subject, to complete a process created by the Department (HOUSSE) in order to meet federal requirements.

A study of alternative testing methods. The measure requires the Office of Educational Accountability (OEA) at the University of Minnesota, in consultation with MDE, to conduct a study on the costs of implementing a computer-based adaptive test to replace the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.