MDE Revamps Report Card and Commits to Equity as it Prepares for ESSA Implementation

On July 11, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) hosted over 100 people for an update on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). At the meeting, MDE informed the group that they had recently adopted ten Commitments to Equity, as well as provided updates on improvements to the state’s report card and the plan for reporting discipline data.

As a refresher, MDE’s ESSA accountability plan was approved by the US Department of Education (USDE) on January 10. A primary purpose of the plan is to describe how MDE will identify public schools for support. Rather than use a summative rating system, MDE will use a three-stage decision process (formerly known as the “funnel approach”) to identify the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools (about 50) for Comprehensive School Improvement. You can read more about the Minnesota’s ESSA plan and the three-stage decision process here.

Additionally, from from December 2017 to April 2018, MDE convened three subcommittees to further discuss and obtain recommendations for future improvements to the dashboard and data reporting, school recognition, and the school quality/student success indicator.

This post provides an overview of the topics discussed at MDE’s public update meeting, as well as the timeline for ESSA implementation.

MDE’s Commitment to Equity

According to MDE’s ESSA accountability plan, equity has been at the forefront of their work with ESSA. In recognition of this, MDE adopted ten Commitments to Equity, which were informed by the Council for Chief State School Officers and the Florida Department of Education.

MDE’s new Education Equity Specialist, Macarre Traynham, spoke to how she has been engaging with organizations, like Minneapolis Public Schools and Minnesota Urban League, to start laying the groundwork for how MDE is going to engage in this work.

MDE Revamping State’s Report Card

Under ESSA, states are required to present data in an “easily accessible and user-friendly” way, more so than was required under No Child Left Behind, including:

  • School-by-school spending
  • The number of inexperienced, ineffective, and out-of-field principals and teachers
  • School discipline rates
  • Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate offerings

At the meeting, Josh Collins, MDE’s Director of Communications, detailed some of the changes that MDE plans to make to the Report Card by the USDE mandated December 31 deadline. One of the biggest changes is that MDE will be adding an “at a glance” section that allows schools to write in their own description of their school. According to Collins, this will provide an opportunity for schools to highlight things that they offer that are not articulated through the other measures on the report card.

Additionally, the front page of a school on the report card will include the measures that are used in the state’s accountability plan—math and reading growth and proficiency, high school graduation rates, EL proficiency, and consist attendance—as well as whether or not the school has been identified for support or recognition.

Reporting School Discipline

As mentioned above, ESSA requires that states include information on school discipline data, including student arrest rates, out-of-school and in-school suspensions, and incidences of violence on the report card.

Minnesota currently collects discipline data through the Disciplinary Incident Reporting System (DIRS), which includes the following:

  • In-school suspension for special education students
  • Out-of-school suspensions
  • Expulsions and exclusions
  • Referrals to law enforcement
  • Dangerous weapons, even if there was no disciplinary action taken
  • Physical assault of a staff member

Under state law, each district and charter school is required annually to electronically submit to MDE disciplinary incident data by school building, as well as the district certification by the superintendent or charter school district.

At the public update meeting, MDE spoke to how they plan to update DIRS to allow individuals to compare discipline data across districts and schools. Specifically, MDE will present the rates per 100 students in each district and charter school that are being dismissed. Importantly, this data will also be disaggregated by race and disability.

School discipline has been a topic that has gained a lot of traction in Minnesota over the past few months in large part due to action the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) took last fall when they delivered letters to 43 district and charter schools, informing them that they were under investigation for violating the state Human Rights Act because of significant disparities in their student discipline data. Since then, MDHR has reached collaborative agreements with 20 district and charter schools that are meant to promote specific strategies that “promote learning and development while maintaining safe environments.”

High disparities in discipline rates were made further visible in a March 2018 report MDHR published, which highlighted the following startling statistics:

  • Students of color in Minnesota comprise only 31 percent of Minnesota’s student population, but receive 66 percent of all suspensions and expulsions.
  • Students with disabilities comprise only 14 percent of Minnesota’s student population, but receive 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions.
  • American-Indian students were ten times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers.
  • African–American students were eight times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers.

I’ve Been Hearing About ESSA For Two Years, When Is It Going to Be Implemented?

The required changes to the report cards, as well as to the system for accountability and school improvement, will start during the 2018-19 academic year. Specifically, on August 30, MDE will release information regarding:

  • ESSA indicator data for all public schools and districts
  • Districts that are eligible for support
  • District and charter schools that are eligible for Comprehensive School Improvement and Targeted Improvement support
  • Schools recognized for success on the ESSA indicators

As mentioned above, by December 31, MDE must update their report card with the most recent information for the 2017-18 academic year. MDE will also continue to develop their new report card system throughout the 2018-19 academic year.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on Minnesota’s ESSA state accountability plan, as well as relevant education policy topics related to ESSA nationally.

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