2017 Innovation Zone Law FAQ

Memo · October 2017

Q: What are the benefits of applying for innovation zone status?

A: Some of the benefits expressed by those who plan to apply is that innovation status can provide:

  • Flexibility from state laws and rules.
  • A formal framework for partnering with other school districts, local businesses, universities, and nonprofit organizations on school innovation.
  • Political “cover” for innovation with school board and other stakeholders.

Q: What is the application deadline and notification date?

A: Important dates for the innovation research zone partnership application, Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel Review, and implementation are:

  • January 26, 2018: Deadline for applications to receive preference. Even though applications can be submitted at any time, the law limits the number of innovation research zone partnerships that can be formed. Therefore, we recommend that applications are submitted by this date in case the cap is reached.
  • January 29-February 16, 2018: Panel will review applications.
  • February 28, 2018: Approximate date for when the Panel will make recommendations to the commissioner.
  • March 2018: Commissioner will decide which applications will be accepted as innovation research zone partnerships.
  • July 1, 2018: Innovation research zone partnerships will formally start.

Q: What is the process for deciding which applications will be accepted for innovative zone status?

A: The legislation creates an Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel, which reviews submitted innovation zone plans and recommends them for approval to the commissioner of education. The commissioner, however, has final decision-making authority on plan approval.

Q: Who is on the Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel?

A: The panel is comprised of the following members:

  • Denise Dittrich, MN School Board Association
  • David Adney, MN Association of Secondary Principals
  • Brad Gustafson, MN Association of Elementary Principals
  • Deb Henton, MN Association of School Administrators
  • Eugene Piccolo, MN Association of Charter Schools
  • Sara Gjerdrum, Education Minnesota
  • Krissy Wright, Educators for Excellence
  • Thomas Sanford, Office of Higher Education
  • Dave Heistad (Bloomington) and Kim Gibbons (CAREI) will be the evaluators

Q: What if my application is rejected?

A: Rejected applicants can re-submit their plan after the innovation zone partnership has modified their plan to meet each of the objections.

Q: How many innovation zones are allowed?

A: The commissioner can approve up to three innovation zone plans in the seven-county metropolitan area and up to three in greater Minnesota.

Q: What has to be included in our innovation zone application?

A: The innovation zone application must include the following information:

  • Application Information: The participating district(s), charter school(s), and any partnership organizations (including nonprofits, businesses, or governmental units).
  • Program Information: Brief summaries of the proposed innovation hypothesis, how the innovation zone will implement their innovation, and how they will research and evaluate the effectiveness of the innovation. The application also asks how their innovation zone will align with the World’s Best Workforce and what emerging practices they will use.
  • Exemptions: Which allowable exemptions to Minnesota Statute or Rule they are seeking.
  • Instructional Staff: How the plan was developed in concert with the school’s instructional staff, how they will be impacted, as well as how the results will be disseminated.

More Information:

  • The innovation zone application can be found here
  • Instructions for the application and additional background information can be found here
  • A detailed summary of the contents of the law can be found here
  • With further questions contact Krista Kaput at krista@educationevolving.org.

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