Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants to cut the number of tests students take by a third and he says he will seek federal authority to do it.

In a March 5 letter to education committee chairs Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, and Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, Dayton said there was a "heavy toll" that "excessive standardized testing" was putting Minnesota students and teachers.

"The disproportionate amount of time and test preparation that has resulted from the federal No Child Left Behind law and additional state requirements has stifled teachers' creativity and ability to impart information to students," the governor wrote.

Dayton first mentioned his desire to eliminate some standardized tests in his 2014 State of the State speech. He asked Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to create a working group to recommend what tests should be eliminated.

That group proposed a modest reduction in testing last month. In his letter, Dayton said that recommendation didn't go far enough.

The governor's education policy bill will include eliminating seven of the 21 assessments students are required to take. That will likely require federal approval to comply with the No Child Left Behind law.

"If the federal education law does not change, I will direct the commissioner to request an amendment to our waiver from No Child Left Behind that will allow us to make these changes," Dayton wrote.

Students are now required to take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, in reading, math and science.

Those tests start in the third grade and continue on until high school.

Legislation approved in 2013 by the DFL-controlled Legislature also requires middle and high school students take a series of college readiness exams administered by ACT. Those college tests replaced the Graduation Required Assessment for Diploma, or GRAD, students were required to complete to graduate.

A state education department spokesman said Dayton's proposal would eliminate:

  • Math MCAs in grades three and four
  • Reading MCAs in grades six and seven
  • The Explore, Plan and Compas college readiness tests.

Students would still be required to take the ACT in high school.