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State suspends online student testing after more technical troubles

This is MNsure-bad. At the PiPress, Christopher Magan says, “Minnesota put an abrupt halt to mandatory online proficiency testing Tuesday after repeated glitches frustrated students and teachers for a third day. Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, said in a statement late Tuesday that all testing would be suspended until provider Pearson could fix the system. Pearson is an international firm that is one of the nation’s largest providers of academic assessments. 

At MPR, Tim Post says, “Problems, however, have triggered widespread unhappiness among local school district officials who have only a window of barely two weeks in which to finish student testing for the school year. Local testing directors who spoke to MPR News prior to the department’s decision were completely frustrated by the technical woes this testing season. … This is the first year of a three-year, $38-million contract with the state for Pearson. Last year, the state parted ways with testing company American Institutes of Research for computer problems that led to major testing delays in 2013.” And people think we’re ready to vote online.

First turkeys, then chickens. Now dogs? Jessica Lee of the Strib says, “Minnesota dog owners, pet day care operators and veterinarians are bracing for a highly-contagious dog flu that is sweeping across the Midwest and has already killed several pets from Ohio to Wisconsin. So far, there have been no reports of the canine influenza in Minnesota, but experts say it is nearly certain to strike the state before the virus subsides. Already more than 1,100 dogs in the Chicago area are fighting the virus — with six dead — and local canine caregivers are preparing for its spread north.”

At City Pages, Ben Johnson adds, “If your dog is infected, it’s really quite unlikely you’ll have to put Spot or Fido down. Symptoms include high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. Some dogs don’t show any symptoms at all. There’s a vaccine for those worried about their pets, but researchers are still unsure whether it’s effective against this strain of the virus, so your best bet is to keep your pets away from dog parks, grooming salons, and other places where dogs do dog things to other dogs — sniffing, snorting, licking, that kind of stuff.”

“It’s working” so well in Wisconsin they’re not even going to clean up the mangled deer. The AP story says, “Spot a dead deer on the side of the road? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t want the state Department of Natural Resources paying to clean it up. Walker’s budget would delete $700,000 in funding a year for DNR to pay for disposal of deer carcasses along state highways. The Legislature’s budget committee was slated to debate it on Wednesday. Under Walker’s proposal, responsibility for carting off the dead deer would fall to whatever other government agency is in charge of the roadway. Or they may be left uncollected.”

The Glean

Meanwhile, the New York Times gets in on the Koch brothers’ quasi-endorsement of Wisconsin’s Governor. Nicholas Confessore writes, “On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee. … Mr. Koch’s remark left little doubt among attendees of where his heart is, and could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the ‘invisible primary,’ a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers.”

The scurrilous lefties at ThinkProgress have their theories about Walker and the Kochs. Says Kira Lerner, “Walker has enjoyed the Kochs’ enthusiastic support for much of his political career. Koch Industries was one of the largest contributors to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign, giving him $43,000, his largest out-of-state contribution. And Walker’s 2014 re-election campaign was one of the top recipients of Koch Industries cash. Tim Phillips, president of Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, has also heaped praise on Walker. ‘The difference Scott Walker has made with his policy achievements is as transformative as any governor anywhere in a generation,’ Phillips said in an interview.” True that. The smell alongside Wisconsin highways this summer will be thoroughly transformative.

Entirely coincidentally, Doug Smith of the Strib reports, “Minnesota’s deer population management program will be audited this year by the state’s Legislative Auditor — a move pushed by some deer hunters critical of the Department of Natural Resources deer management. The Legislative Audit Commission, a bipartisan commission with six members from the House and six from the Senate, selected deer management as one of seven evaluations to be done in 2015. Hunters have complained about low deer harvest in recent years, and have questioned the DNR’s population estimates and goal-setting methods.” If hunters don’t mind the funky odor and the aged-quality of the venison they can always drive over and help out with Wisconsin’s harvest.

Speaking of our fine neighbors, I don’t think this Spotted Cow story would have the legs its showing if someone had snuck in a keg of brew called “Uncle Earl’s IPA.” Sarah Larimer of The Washington Post writes, “For those of you who don’t know why you should care about a story that is basically just ‘Area bar sells beer,’ I would point out that the beer in question is Spotted Cow, a product of New Glarus Brewing Co. It is a super beer, according to a source with knowledge of the product. (Me. I say that. I’m the source.) … ‘It’s an elegant beer, I think very European in nature,’ Deb Carey, founder and president of New Glarus Brewery, told The Post in a phone interview. ‘And people love it. And nobody else has been able to replicate it, though plenty have tried.’ This is the great tragedy of Spotted Cow, of course. It’s great that it exists somewhere in the universe! But I won’t find it on tap at my local bar, which can be a real bummer.” It’s so elegant I’m assured you can serve it with deer shank.

Truckin’ lawyers. Tom Webb of the PiPress says, “Groups representing Minnesota trucking firms and car dealers have sued to block the state’s 10 percent biodiesel mandate, arguing it hurts their business and violates federal law. The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, escalates a long-running dispute over soybean-based biodiesel that pits fuel users and some vehicle makers against Minnesota farmers and green groups. Last July, Minnesota began requiring that diesel fuel sold here contain 10 percent bio- diesel, the highest mandate in the nation and double the earlier 5 percent level. Some industries objected, noting some engine warranties don’t cover biodiesel fuel blends above 5 percent.”

The NFL’s schedule makers may have been hitting the Spotted Cow a little too hard. The Vikings’ 2015 schedule has them playing the Bears here Dec. 20, followed a week later by the Giants here, then closing the season January 3 in … Green Bay. At ESPN, Ben Goessling says, “They open with a trip to San Francisco — for their first Monday Night Football appearance since 2013 — and face six straight teams that went 8-8 or better in 2014 to start the year. And at the end of the season, the Vikings get Seattle at home, followed by a Thursday night trip to Arizona before two home games and a visit to Lambeau Field to close the season. We knew there were a number of tough matchups for the Vikings this season, but the NFL packed many of them into the bookends of the schedule. The good news for the Vikings is the middle of the schedule appears forgiving, and three of the last five games are at home. Bundle up for your farewell to TCF Bank Stadium.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by jason myron on 04/22/2015 - 07:05 am.


    has been “transformative” to the state alright. In the same way a dog is transformative to your brand new carpeting when it has an accident on it. Considering the nose dive his poll numbers are taking, perhaps the residents of Wisconsin are finally waking up the the reality of how inept this guy really is.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/22/2015 - 09:00 am.

    Regarding Turkey Flu

    I’ve heard a lot of MPR stories about this epidemic of avian flu in domestic turkey barns in the area (and now laying hens in Iowa), but I have yet to hear a specific rundown of what’s being tested/pursued.

    Specifically, I’m curious about whether,…

    this could be sabotage

    – do any of these facilities have security cameras? If not, it would be extremely easy for someone to slip infectious agents into a barn in the dead of night.

    – is there an ingredient that’s universally used in what these poultry are fed into which infections contaminants could be added, thereby infecting every flock whose feed includes that additive? Is their feed and its ingredients being tested?

    Could this be a cross-species viral jump? There have been so many different minor respiratory flu-like viruses moving the population in my community this winter, is it possible that one of these is a mutation of the avian flu now air born and contagious among humans but also still infectious to poultry? Are the turkeys/chickens catching this from infected workers?

    Since we’ve yet to find any infection in wild birds in Minnesota, it seems as if the investigation needs to broaden into other possibilities.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/22/2015 - 11:01 am.

      avian flu

      To answer your questions first, they are testing infected birds, all birds within the control zone, farm workers, and wild birds as well (although those migrating seem to be ahead of the infected barns)

      Second, it is highly unlikely anyone is slipping agents into the barns due to various security systems. Many of these barns are fenced off restricting access and many are also located along well traveled highways.

      Third, If it was a feed ingredient then more than one barn per farm would have been infected but that is not the case so that rules out contaminates from the feed.

      Fourth, if it was cross-species then the workers would be testing positive for the virus but they are not so it doesn’t appear it is coming from any other species.

      Fifth, the wild birds are migrating so testing of wild birds needs to catch up to the ones that are carrying the virus but at this time I don’t believe they are that far ahead yet.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 04/22/2015 - 11:27 am.

      The most logic explanation

      is that the infection came from migratory birds.

      Even on-farm slaughter and composting can’t assure a good quarantine.

      This is a serious economic loss for MN, and continues to demonstrate the vulnerability of monoculture-type livestock management. Less distributed production and more single species livestock makes modern agriculture still amazingly productive, but also uniquely susceptible to health or other events.

      And yet, smaller, more cottage-style production still cannot be the answer to a hungry world.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/22/2015 - 02:54 pm.


        “continues to demonstrate the vulnerability of monoculture-type livestock management. Less distributed production and more single species livestock makes modern agriculture still amazingly productive, but also uniquely susceptible to health or other events. ”

        This in no way has anything to do with the style of livestock management and you have absolutely zero evidence to show that it does. You are insinuating that if they had other species of livestock on these sites they would have been less vulnerable. This could not be further from the truth. These types of single species farms have been proven over and over to be less susceptible to disease. Size of farms is also completely irrelevant.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/24/2015 - 11:48 am.


        I think todays news should put this type of uninformed and uneducated logic to rest. A non-commercial mixed poultry farm has now been found to have the same strain of Avian the other flocks so it is pretty obvious that this outbreak is a result of domestic livestock being exposed to foreign disease they have not previously been exposed to rather than a result of they type of livestock management. Many times organizations and people with an agenda will try to make statements such as these to sway the uneducated public from the truth and gain support for their agendas. I’m not sure why you would even make such a statement after stating it is most logical that the infection came from migratory birds. It would seem obvious that the confined nature of the commercial facilities would limit the risk of infection from anything outside.

  3. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 04/22/2015 - 09:50 am.

    Testing Failures

    How is it even newsworthy that the state’s testing system is not working? Has it ever been?

    Until I retired a few years ago, I was responsible for the technical aspects of testing in my district. My peers and I spent countless hours preparing for what we knew – regardless of the year’s chosen vendor – would be a flawed process, because no one wanted to spend what we knew it would take to have a reliable system.

    And why would they not spend the money to do it right? Because no one had ever really defined a valid purpose for that sort of testing. Those who were reality-based knew it was all for show. It would not improve any student’s life one bit, so any result – regardless of accuracy – was acceptable. Just had to be a nod to accountability.

    Real tests – the ones teachers administer every day without any need for elaborate infrastructure – work pretty well, because they have a purpose. They let students and teachers know right away and in a meaningful way, what is working in the classroom and what needs to be done to make it all work better.

    Until we can say that about statewide tests, they will always be an exercise in futility. The technical problems are a minor annoyance compared to the wasted opportunity in a purposeful classroom.

  4. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 04/22/2015 - 01:22 pm.

    Walker’s Wisconsin is road kill

    It’s been revealed that in addition to Walker’s cronyistic hires engaging in rampant nepotism, Walker’s shift to bonuses over pay raises resulted in the obvious: the bonuses all went to the crony hires and their kids.

    Since moving here I’ve been astonished at how openly corrupt Scott Walker’s government is. Any Republican who thinks this is their guy needs to buy a book on how long cons work.

    As for Wisconsin, it will go belly up in the next year or so. Smoke and mirrors with no substance. Walker makes Chris Christie look honest.

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