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Ready for the real world? Minnesota high school students are further along than those in North Dakota

Minnesota is much farther along than North Dakota when it comes to making sure its high school graduates are ready for college or the workplace, according to a report by Achieve Inc.

Minnesota will have high school standards and graduation requirements in place that meet college and workplace expectations in 2008, Achieve reported in "Closing the Expectations Gap."

Minnesota is now in the process of choosing or creating a readiness test for high school students. It is also creating a system to track P-20 data - information on students from preschool to graduate school, the report said.

North Dakota is only credited for working on tracking P-20 data.

Neither state holds high schools accountable for graduating their students college- and career-ready, the report said.

Achieve is a nonpartisan group created by governors and business leaders to improve graduation standards, assessments and accountability.

Minnesota is among 32 states that joined Achieve to form the American Diploma Project Network.

Karen Klinzing, assistant commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Education, said having standards in place means students will be ready for the real world.

"We're very excited about creating a seamless transition from high to college," Klinzing said.

She said her department wants to see remediation rates drop for students who aren't prepared for the rigors of college work, and more students ready for college.

"We need 10,500 more college graduates (a year) than we have in the past," Klinzing said.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education said the state produced 78,000 graduates, including those with two-year degrees, in 2004-05.

Klinzing said Minnesota will now focus on making transitions seamless from preschool to college.

North Dakota doesn't have formal policies in place but is tackling many of Achieve's objectives, said Gary Gronberg, assistant superintendent at the Department of Public Instruction.

"Their assessment is honest, but we're coming in these areas," Gronberg said. "It (the report) doesn't give credit, for instance, for what our Commission on Education Improvement is doing" to equalize funding and set standards.

"We did see more (from the Legislature) in 2007 with high school course requirements to graduate. This is the first time we've spelled it out," Gronberg said.

But more work is needed, he said. North Dakota's students still do well on national tests, but other states that once posted lower scores "have now achieved North Dakota's standards or passed us. Our position is coming more towards the mean," he said.

Achieve reported:

- Nineteen states have high school standards aligned with college or work expectations; 26 states are developing standards.

- Eighteen states and the District of Columbia require students to complete a college- or career-related curriculum; 12 more states plan to do so.

- Nine states administer college readiness tests to all high school students; 23 states plan to do so.

- Eight states have P-20 data tracking systems; 39 states are developing them.

- Four states use a cohort (group) graduation rate and track post-secondary diplomas in holding high schools accountable for improvement; seven states are moving in this direction.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583