Back to school with big changes in Minnesota

Image 1 of 4

Gov. Dayton kicks off the school year by welcoming students at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville. Photo by Tim Blotz / Fox 9.

If the calendar didn’t remind you that it’s back to school time, certainly your Facebook feed did. It seems everyone was posting back to school pictures today. (Check out our adorable slideshow of back to school moments at

But students and parents may notice something a little different this year -- potentially less time taking standardized tests. The teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, released a new report this week advocating that high stakes assessment tests should be limited to just the 5th grade and 8th grade.

We’re a ways from that ever happening, But this year, schools across the state are heading down the path to less testing. This spring, lawmakers passed new rules allowing no more than 10 hours of district-wide assessment testing in grade school and 11 hours in high school.

“Annual testing is good, absolutely.  But we don’t need to annual test every 6 weeks,” education commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “That was starting to squeeze out arts and music, theater and sports and recess and all of the things that make for a really well-rounded child.” 

But it’s more than testing on the back end. On the front end, Gov. Mark Dayton is not giving up on universal preschool. Like a teacher redirecting his students, he’s back on message with his belief that pre-K for all 4-year-olds will help reduce the state’s  achievement gap between whites and children of color.

“We know that works,” Gov. Dayton said. “There are 47,000 4-year-olds throughout Minnesota who would benefit this year from all-day pre-K and there’s no reason to hold back any longer.” 

This is the second year that public schools have now been able to offer all-day kindergarten. The legislature spent a substantial amount of money on pre-K scholarships this year, but it’s clear the governor is going to take another run at spending more state money to make preschool an option for all families.