ST. PAUL (AP) -- The passing rate among Minnesota's high school sophomores on a required writing exam dipped slightly to 90.7 percent this year, after reaching a high of 92 percent last year.
"Our students' high marks on the written composition test show that they are meeting the clear expectations we set for these skills," state education Commissioner Christine Jax said Thursday in a news release announcing the scores. "Our schools and teachers are teaching students to write simple, clear, short essays."
This year, the essay question for sophomores was "Describe your dream job."
St. John's Abbey shares information with investigators
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Investigators looking into the unsolved 1974 killings of two girls have asked St. John's Abbey for information on several monks and priests who are restricted by the abbey for alleged past sexual abuse.
Stearns County Sheriff James Kostreba wouldn't say exactly what he was looking for, but said it was "way too premature" to name suspects or draw any direct links between the killings and St. John's.
"It has always been an open investigation," Kostreba said Wednesday about the slayings that occurred nearly three decades ago near St. Cloud.
American Cancer Society defends embattled anti-smoking fund
ST. PAUL (AP) -- American Cancer Society officials Wednesday said the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco should be reformed but not dismantled, citing the state's recent success in reducing youth smoking.
Attorney General Mike Hatch wants to strip the group of the $202 million it administers from the state's 1998 settlement with the tobacco industry. He wants to transfer control to the state Health Department and the University of Minnesota and says the group should focus its attention on smoking cessation rather than working to ban smoking in restaurants in some communities.
"To dismantle MPAAT would squander an unprecedented opportunity," said Gary Streit, vice chairman of the American Cancer Society's board of directors.
State financial aid agency predicts $10 million shortfall
ST. PAUL (AP) -- The state agency in charge of financial aid to Minnesota college students predicts it will be $10.4 million short in its grant program next school year.
The Minnesota Higher Education Services Office is predicting the shortfall based on student demand through March 31. To compensate, the agency may be forced to raid other programs used by parents and low-income students or to ration how much money a student can get.
The agency already borrowed $7.8 million this year against next year's budget in order to meet the demand of students requesting aid.
"This is really uncertain, and that makes everybody uneasy," said agency spokesman Phil Lewenstein.
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