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Grading education

Minnesota, North Dakota receive 'C' for education

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FARGO -- Walk into a classroom in Fargo and one in Moorhead and you may see slightly different academic standards.

That's something both states are looking to change by signing on to efforts to develop national standards.

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"At the end of the day, I think it is important that we have a consistency of expectation across our nation," said Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. "Certainly, kids move all over the country and there needs to be some guarantee that what kids are learning is consistent."

Common standards are the main issue highlighted in the 14th annual "Quality Counts" report, released today by Education Week.

The report gives North Dakota a "B" grade and Minnesota a 'C' for standards, assessments and accountability.

Both are among 48 states backing efforts to develop national common core standards.

Education officials expect to see a draft this month of the national standards, which would still give states some flexibility in implementing them.

"I think we've been growing toward that, anyway," North Dakota Assistant School Superintendent Gary Gronberg said of national standards. "It's just now it's going at a much faster pace."

Today's report also includes the industry publication's annual report card for each state. For the third consecutive year, North Dakota and Minnesota earned "C's" overall.

Education officials took the grades in stride.

"We don't do it the way they (Education Week) think it should be done," Seagren said of some factors. "That's a philosophical difference. Neither way is wrong. But also, it's a little bit frustrating when someone's opinion results in a negative grade."

For North Dakota, the most important grade, Gronberg said, is the "B" for students' chance for success, which uses factors such as state test scores and graduation rates.

"That shows North Dakota is doing very well," he said.

Minnesota received a "B plus" in that category.

The states and nation may be able to do better with national standards. Some say national common core standards could boost students' success across the country.

"That's the ultimate outcome - to help student achievement," said LeAnn Nelson of the North Dakota Education Association, adding that whether it does is yet to be seen.

In the end, officials said common standards could make transitions easier for kids moving between states.

"We're building closer linkages to each other," Gronberg said. "And that's what this whole common core standards discussion across the country is about."

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