Kelly Young of Education Reimagined on Paradigm Shift Toward Learner-Centered Education

Help us kick off a new series on Thursday, October 13, with breakfast with Kelly Young, Executive Director of the DC-based Education Reimagined. Come hear about their work to shift the paradigm in American education toward learner-centered learning—that is, learning that is personalized, relevant, socially-embedded, competency-based, and open-walled.

New Paper Release & Happy Hour: Measuring Student-Centered Outcomes

This year we've been doing research and interviews on the question of how student success is or could be defined and measured in student-centered learning environments. On October 23, we're releasing a new paper summarizing our findings and ideas. Join us that afternoon for a paper release happy hour. You’ll connect with other student-centered learning enthusiasts, hear a brief presentation on the paper's findings, and be the first to get a copy!

MDE Identifies Schools for Support Under New ESSA Plan. What Does That Entail?

On August 30, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the first round of 485 schools identified to receive support under the state’s new North Star accountability system, as required by the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, schools can be identified for comprehensive support, targeted support, or more general support from MDE.

Immediately following the release, news coverage spoke about the new accountability system overall, provided names of the identified schools, and highlighted the state’s unchanging and persistent achievement gaps.

And while the data release and identified schools received widespread coverage, there was little said about what actual supports the schools will receive from MDE and, more specifically, the Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE).

This post will provide an overview of the processes for identifying schools for support and MDE’s RCEs, as well as a deep dive into the two main levels of school support—comprehensive and targeted support.

How Are Schools Identified for Support? Glad You Asked.

As we have previously written, MDE used a three-stage process for identifying most schools for support. The processes are somewhat different between elementary/middle schools and high schools because they use different indicators in the second stage. The processes are described below.

Elementary/Middle Schools

  • Stage 1: Title I schools in the bottom twenty-five percent in proficiency for at least one of the academic indicators—mathematics achievement, reading achievement, and/or progress towards EL proficiency—were moved onto Stage 2.
  • Stage 2: Title I schools in the bottom twenty-five percent for either mathematics growth or reading growth were moved onto Stage 3.
  • Stage 3: Consistent attendance (aka chronic absenteeism) was used to identify the lowest 5% of Title 1 elementary and middle schools.

High Schools

  • Stage 1: Title I schools in the bottom twenty-five percent for proficiency in at least one of the academic indicators—mathematics achievement, reading achievement, and/or progress towards EL proficiency—were moved onto Stage 2.
  • Stage 2A: Title I high schools in the bottom half according to their four-year graduation rates were moved onto to Stage 2B.
  • Stage 2B: Title I high schools in the bottom half according to their seven-year graduation rates were moved onto Stage 3.
  • Stage 3: Consistent attendance (aka chronic absenteeism) was used to identify the lowest 5% of Title 1 high schools.

Importantly, the North Star accountability system does not assign summative ratings to schools. This is different from Minnesota’s former accountability system, the Multiple Measurements Rating system, which had the summative ratings—Reward, Celebration Eligible, Continuous Improvement, Focus, and Priority.

An Overview: Regional Centers of Excellence

After schools are identified, they receive support from the RCEs. In total, Minnesota has six RCEs that are operated through the state’s six service cooperatives. The RCEs were first developed by MDE in 2012, after the state received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Law.

The Minnesota legislature formally recognized the RCEs during the 2013 legislative session when legislation was passed and signed by Governor Dayton. Under state law, RCEs are charged with assisting and supporting local school boards, districts, and public schools in “implementing research-based interventions and practices to increase the students’ achievement within a region.”

Prior to the state’s new ESSA accountability plan, the RCEs supported schools identified as Focus or Priority. Now, the RCEs provide support to schools identified for either Comprehensive Support and Improvement or Targeted Support, each of which will be discussed more below.

An important distinction between CSI and TS schools is that CSI schools are identified by going through the three-stage identification process in its entirety, as well as by four-year graduation rates. TS schools, on the other hand, are identified by having, for any indicator in the three-stage process, one or more student groups—Ex. English learners, special education, Black, Latino, etc.—in the bottom quartile or that are performing similarly to the CSI schools.

Comprehensive Support and Improvement: MDE’s Most Intensive Form of Support

There are two ways schools can be identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI):

  1. The lowest 5 percent of Title I schools, as identified through the three-stage process described above. MDE identified 34 elementary, seven middle, and six high schools for this support.
  2. Any public high school, regardless of whether they do or do not receive Title I funds, with a four-year graduation rate below 67 percent overall for any student group. MDE identified 152 high schools to receive support in this area.

Schools identified for CSI are required to send the following to MDE by March 1, 2019:

  • Comprehensive Needs Assessment Summary Report: Under ESSA, the district or charter school is responsible for leading and supporting a comprehensive needs assessment process for schools identified for CSI.
  • School Improvement Plan: The primary purpose of the plan is to identify strategies, practices, or programs that can be implemented and that will have the highest likelihood of success. According to MDE’s School Improvement Plan Overview, schools should select strategies that are “informed by research as having a desired impact in addressing root causes for the intended student population.”
  • District Checklist and Approval for Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools

The school improvement plan must be developed by each school’s improvement team, which should include the voices of educators, staff, and community members. Additionally, district staff should also be represented on the team or have a clear communication pathway between the school and its district. Each school’s improvement team is accountable for making the school improvement work happen, including the development and implementation of the School Improvement plan.

With regard to RCEs, each school identified in this category will be assigned an “advocate” who will work with the School Improvement Team to review, approve, and monitor the School Improvement plans. Specifically, the approval and monitoring process will be part of the technical assistance that the RCE advocate provides. An important component of RCE support is that it strives to provide individualized attention and recommendations so that each school receives the supports that they need to improve student achievement.

Targeted Support: Special Attention for Struggling Student Groups

There are three ways a school could be identified for Targeted Support (TS):

  • Schools where any student group performs at or below the average of the schools identified for CSI for at least one indicator.
  • Schools where any student group performs in the bottom quartile for one or more indicators.
  • Title I schools that would have been identified for CSI if their consistent attendance had been lower. In other words, these are the schools that were in the bottom quartile for Stage 1 and Stage 2 in the three-stage identification process.

In total, MDE identified 157 schools for Targeted Support. Schools identified for TS are not required to submit any of the documents that CSI schools have to submit. Rather, it is the responsibility of the district or charter school to document their improvement activities and maintain records of their local work because MDE will periodically audit the district and schools.

With regard to RCEs, each district that has schools identified for TS will be assigned an RCE staff member who will work with the district or charter school to help build their capacity to support the TS schools.

Other Support from MDE

While CSI and TS are the most intensive levels of school identification, MDE does offer professional development and networking opportunities to Title 1 schools that were in the bottom quartile for at least one of the academic indicators—mathematics achievement, reading achievement, and/or progress towards EL proficiency. MDE identified 134 schools to receive this support.

What’s Next?

MDE has created a timeline for schools identified for CSI. September through December, schools identified for CSI should be forming their improvement teams, conducting a needs assessment, creating a stakeholder communication plan, and starting to select strategies for school improvement. You can see MDE’s suggested Timeline here.

Minnesota will identify schools for support every three years, so the next round won’t be until the 2021-2022 academic year.

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PELSB Approves Rule Changes to Address Defects and Submits Them to Chief ALJ

On August 30, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), the new state entity which oversees teacher licensure, held a special board meeting to address defects in their rule draft that Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Barbara Case, found in her August 16 report. PELSB had previously met on August 22 to review possible changes to correct the defects, with the hopes of approving them, but they did not have quorum.

This was the next step in what’s been a long and, sometimes, contentious rulemaking process for PELSB. For an overview of Minnesota’s transition to tiered licensure, which includes a history of the rulemaking process, read our briefing memo.

At the meeting, PELSB addressed 11 specific areas in rule where the ALJ had found defects. There were a few areas that only needed simple changes, like striking a line. However, other areas were more intensive and required PELSB to choose between different options. There was also a robust discussion between PELSB and public stakeholders on several of the changes considered. The meeting concluded with PELSB voting 6-2 to approve the rule changes.

This post will provide an overview of some of the changes PELSB made to rule and the next steps in the rulemaking process.

Changes Made to Two Most Contentious Areas: Cultural Competency and Tier 1 Mentoring

As we’ve previously written, two of the most contentious areas in the rule draft were:

  • Requirement for Tier 1 teachers to receive mentorship for a first time renewal.
  • PELSB’s definition of cultural competency training programs.

For Tier 1 mentorship, the ALJ determined, “The most reasonable reading of the statute is that it requires Tier 1 teachers to participate in a mentorship program and that a district that does not have a mentorship program cannot hire a Tier 1 applicant.” With that said, she did find a defect with the phrase “board-adopted criteria” because “The rule does not provide a clear rule that the general public can understand.”

To address this issue, PELSB struck the “board-adopted criteria” language and created a formal definition for what a mentorship program would entail. Importantly, the program definition would only be applicable for Tier 1 teachers, and not for Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4.

With regard to cultural competency training, Judge Case found that PELSB had “sufficient facts to adequately support the need for and reasonableness of the proposed rule.” However, she strongly recommended that PELSB replace its proposed rule with language that is already in the Standards of Effective Practice, which PELSB did in their rule changes.

Acceptable Applicants: Prescriptive List by PELSB or District Discretion?

The teacher licensure legislation states that a district can hire a Tier 1 licensed teacher if they are unable to hire “an acceptable teacher with a Tier 2, 3, or 4 license.” Importantly, the legislation does not define “acceptable” nor does it indicate whether PELSB or the district has the discretion to determine who an “acceptable” candidate is.

The ALJ determined PELSB does have the authority to define the word “acceptable” because if left to each district it would “not provide a clear, understandable and generally applicable standard for administering teaching credentials.” With that said, the ALJ asserted that PELSB’s proposal to review applications on a “case-by-case basis” did not provide a clear standard. In her report, the ALJ provided a number of recommendations for how PELSB could rectify this defect. She concluded that whatever PELSB decided to do, they must make it clear what constitutes an unacceptable higher-tiered candidate.

At the August 30 meeting, PELSB addressed this defect by creating a list of five acceptable attributes that districts could indicate a Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4 applicant did not possess as rationale for why they wanted to hire a Tier 1 teacher instead.

PELSB also aligned their criteria of “not acceptable” applicants for Out-Of-Field Permissions with the change they made for the Tier 1 process.

Man, This Rulemaking Process is Long. When Will it Be Done?

On August 31, PELSB submitted their rule changes to Judge Tammy Pust, the Chief ALJ. Judge Pust has five business days to review. After the Chief ALJ reviews the changes, one of two things will happen:

  • If the changes PELSB made are deemed substantial by the Chief ALJ, then the public comment period will start over again.
  • If the changes are not deemed substantial then, on the same day, PELSB will submit the rules to Governor Dayton for approval and take other procedural steps necessary for final adoption.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on the PELSB rulemaking process and other relevant topics with regard to teacher licensure.

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Project-Based Social Justice: Reimagining Student Success at Patrick Henry

Conflict resolution. Statistics. Self-advocacy. Science and math. Entrepreneurship. Job interviews. Problem-solving. Types of power. Building strong networks. Their own history.

These were some of the answers students, staff, families, and community members of Patrick Henry High School gave during a gathering last Friday to the question, “What topics should students learn about in school?”

Patrick Henry, a district high school in North Minneapolis that serves primarily low-income students and students of color, is part of a growing movement of public schools and districts around the country that are convening their local communities to create a Portrait of a Graduate—a “collective vision that articulates the community’s aspirations for all students”.

This blog post will explore the themes that emerged from the event last Friday and describe a new social justice themed project-based learning academy that will be launching this fall at Patrick Henry, which the event was intended to inform.

Community Emphasizes Importance of 21st Century Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies

When students, families, and community members arrived for the event, they found a number of large sheets of flip chart paper posted around the space. They were asked to circulate and leave their answers on post-it notes to questions like: “What types of community issues do you think students want to learn about in school?” and “What would an ideal graduate be able to do/have?”

After the gallery walk, a number of school and community leaders addressed the group. Finally, guests shared dinner and participated in facilitated small group conversations where the questions were explored with greater nuance.

Throughout the evening, the themes that emerged echoed what education advocates call “21st century skills” and “social-emotional competencies”. In addition to the skills listed in the opening line of this post, other prominent themes included:

  • Self-management skills (like project management, meeting deadlines, persistence, grit)
  • Communication skills (like collaboration, working across difference, and cultural code switching)
  • Practical college/career skills (like networking, applying for jobs, resume building, and making decisions about college programs)
  • Social justice themes (like self-advocacy, self-care, and knowledge about racism and gun violence)

These themes are also aligned with Education Evolving’s findings on the student competencies correlated with success in college, careers, and life, as part of research we are conducting for a paper on student-centered learning outcomes that is due out in October 2018.

And while community members valued broader and deeper competencies, academics were still highly important. As Sondra Samuels, President & CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, and one of those who addressed the group, said: it’s important that “students are also expected to meet high standards.” That doesn’t need to be in conflict, she said, “with learning experiences that respect who students are, how they learn, and what they want to do.”

A New Social Justice Themed Project-Based Learning Academy

The Friday gathering was part of the planning process for a new social justice-oriented project-based learning academy that will launch this fall at Patrick Henry. Designed by teachers and supported by a grant from the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation, the academy will “provide an innovative, culturally relevant curriculum option to students who will benefit from real world experiential learning”.

The program will begin with a cohort of 50 students in their junior year. Students enrolled in the program will spend part of their day taking courses from the main high school course catalog. They will also have a special block of time dedicated to project-based learning, where they will work on social justice themed projects that they have chosen and that are aligned with their interests.

Additionally, one day a week, the students will spend their morning working on real-world job skills and then spend their afternoon in the community at an internship aligned with their interests and career aspirations.

While program will start with 50 students, the goal is that one day, when fully enrolled, the academy will grow to serve 250 students—and that successful practices and strategies learned in that program might spread within the larger high school.

Education Evolving will continue to report on innovative ways communities are defining and measuring student learning objectives. Sign up to receive Education Evolving blog posts by email. Also, stay tuned for our upcoming paper on defining and measuring student-centered outcomes, coming October 2018.

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Minnesota Awards State’s First Alternative Teacher Preparation Grants

This week, the Office of Higher Education announced the five recipients of the State’s first Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program:

  • Southwest West Central Service Cooperative
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota
  • Lakes Country Service Cooperative
  • The New Teacher Project
  • Teach For America

According to Larry Pogemiller, the Commissioner of the Office of Higher Education, “The five chosen programs all demonstrate innovative and promising teacher preparation methods that can help Minnesota schools meet the challenge of finding the teachers they need.”

The grant program was created during the 2017 legislative session and allocated $750,000 for new alternative preparation programs that intended to do one or more of the following:

  • Fill Minnesota’s teacher shortage in licensure areas that the commissioner has identified.
  • Recruit, select, and train teachers who reflect the racial or ethnic diversity of the students in Minnesota.
  • Establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs.

Importantly, only a “school district, charter school, or nonprofit” were eligible for the grant monies, meaning that institutions of higher education were not. Additionally, in order to be eligible, programs must also have been in operation for three continuous years in Minnesota or any other state, and are working to fill the state’s teacher shortage areas. Finally, the commissioner of Higher Education must give preference to programs that are based in Minnesota.

This post will provide a description of an alternative teacher preparation program, as well as a description of the programs for each of the grant recipients.

What is an Alternative Teacher Preparation Program?

In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that created the opportunity for alternative teacher preparation programs to be created. According to a 2016 Office of the Legislative Auditor report, school district, charter schools, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to establish an alternative program by partnering with a college or university that had an alternative teacher preparation program. Additionally, school districts and charter schools are also able to establish an alternative program by forming a partnership with certain nonprofit organizations, but only after they had consulted with a college or university with a teacher preparation program.

Legislation passed during the 2017 session revised the 2011 legislation and created a clearer path to approval for alternative teacher preparation programs. Specifically, the 2017 legislation removed the partnership requirement. Those changes did not officially take effect until July 1, 2018.

Alternative teacher preparation programs are different from a “nonconventional” program in that they are not offered by a traditional teacher preparation institution and do not need to be associated with a particular school district, charter school, or nonprofit organization.

Even though the opportunity for the creation of alternative teacher preparation programs has been in statute since 2011, no such programs exist in the state. In 2012, Teach for America sought to become the state’s first alternative teacher preparation program, but instead ended up partnering with Hamline University, then the University of Minnesota, and now with Saint Mary’s University to create a “nonconventional” program.

Southwest West Central Service Cooperative

The SWWC Service Cooperative will use their grant money to create a program that ameliorates the “extreme teacher shortage experienced by both SWWC and its more than 55 member school districts.” Specifically, SWWC’s preparation program would train special education teachers, particularly in the areas of Early Childhood Special Education, Emotional or Behavioral Disorders, and Academic and Behavioral Strategists. In the future, they would also likely create programs for Teaching English as a Second Language.

With regard to the teacher training, SWWC said that they would embed experiential learning with on-the-job training, mentorship, and coaching in order to meet teacher licensure requirements and prepare teacher candidates for the changing needs of their students.

Learning Disabilities Association

LDA will use their grant money to create an alternative teacher preparation program for teachers pursuing the special education Academic and Behavior Strategist licensure. Also, with their “extensive partnerships” throughout the Twin Cities and surrounding cities, LDA Minnesota staff will “develop field experience that aligns with coursework with experienced licensed classroom teachers in diversified classrooms.” Another important piece for LSA is the recruitment and retention of diverse candidates, which they plan to do through the development of a strong mentorship and coaching program.

Lakes Country Service Cooperative

LCSC will create an alternative pathway for the shortage areas in Career and Technical Education:

  • Teacher/Coordinator of Work-Based Learning
  • Core Skills for Career and Technical Education
  • Construction Careers
  • Medical Careers
  • Transportation Careers
  • Manufacturing Careers

LCSC’s licensure program will use micro-credentialing, which is a program structure that will be set up with a “stack” of “multiple micro-credentials that are aligned very specifically to the content standards required for that particular license. As candidates progress, they will submit artifacts to be reviewed (by content experts) in relation to the specific micro-credential.” If the candidate provides enough evidence of competency, then the micro-credential will be granted and once the candidate obtains each required micro-credential then their program is considered complete.

The New Teacher Project

TNTP, a national organization that works with more than 30 cities around the country, will expand TNTP Academy—their alternative pathway to teacher certification that currently operates in four states—to Minnesota in order to increase the state’s teachers of color. Specifically, the program aims to recruit and train a “diverse pool of candidates to teach in the hardest-to-staff positions in partnering districts and charter schools across the state.” TNTP noted that about half of the Fellows they train identify as people of color, as compared to 18 percent of teachers nationwide.

Teach For America

Teach for America (TFA) has operated in the Twin Cities since 2009. They currently have 30 corps members and over 675 alumni in the region. TFA indicated that they wanted to “Launch an initial cohort of 30 teachers, 40% of whom are teachers of color and 30% from low-income backgrounds with over a third preparing to teach in subject-area shortages.”

Specifically, they will pursue initial program approval in July 2018 for the following shortage areas:

  • Middle and High School Mathematics
  • Middle and High School Science
  • Elementary, Middle, and High School English as a Second Language

After launching and implementing these programs, TFA plans to expand to special education licensure, which is another shortage area.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on the Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program, as well as alternative teacher preparation programs in Minnesota.

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FAQ: Minnesota's Tiered Teacher Licensure System and PELSB

· August 2018 · By

The new four-tiered teacher licensure system was created by the legislature during the 2017 legislative session. This FAQ covers the new system and the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board by answering the following questions:

  • What is the new, four-tiered licensure system?
  • What are the qualifications to receive a license in each tier?
  • Why was the old teacher licensure system overhauled and changed to a tiered system?
  • How is the new, tiered licensure system different from the old licensure system?
  • Who oversees the new teacher licensure system?
  • What are the responsibilities of PELSB?
  • How is PELSB different from the Board of Teaching?

The Perkins Act Has Finally Been Reauthorized. Here’s What’s In It and Why It Matters to MN

On July 31, President Trump signed the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The signing follows on the heels of bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress, where the bill advanced on voice votes.

The $1.2 billion Perkins Act provides funding for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and job training for students, and charges states with setting and making progress on their CTE goals.

This post will cover the history of the legislation, what’s new in the 2018 reauthorization, and the CTE landscape in Minnesota.

Perkins: A Legislative History

Originally passed as the Vocational Education Act of 1963, renamed the Carl D. Perkins Act in 1984, it was enacted to increase learner access to high-quality CTE programs of study, especially to those students who had been underserved in the past or who had substantial education needs. The Perkins Act provides federal funds to states so they can facilitate connections between secondary and postsecondary education and employers—aligning learning programs to best serve the needs of the local economy.

Reauthorized last in 2006, congressional budget authorizations kept the legislation alive since its expiration in 2012. The House passed reauthorization bills in 2016 and 2017, but progress stalled out as the Senate debated the Secretary of Education’s CTE oversight role.

With the president’s signature, the new law is set to take effect July 1, 2019.

What’s New This Time Around?

There are several significant changes in the reauthorized legislation. House co-sponsor, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorti (D-IL), offered this summary of the Perkins Act:

  1. It increases funding so that more students can participate.
  2. It shifts control from Washington to local authorities.
  3. It keeps businesses at the table to help validate the skills that are taught.

Krishnamoorti concluded, “At the end of the day we want these students and people in career transition to basically end up in what I call the greatest anti-poverty program devised by human beings: a job.”

In the reauthorized version, states are granted greater authority to set their own CTE goals, eliminating a previous negotiation process with the Secretary of Education. With this change, states are required to make “meaningful progress” toward meeting said goals. Meaningful progress is measured against performance targets, which take into account graduation rates, percentage of students entering postsecondary or advanced training programs over a given time, and industry credential attainment.

Notably, the bill allows “the [education] secretary to reduce grant funding to states failing to meet 90 percent of performance targets for two consecutive years.” CTE advocates like Kim Green, executive director of the nonprofit Advance CTE, worry this may discourage states from setting ambitious targets for CTE students, absent clarification that the law did not intend for states to set lower, more attainable targets.

CTE advocates also warn of the broad guidelines for how state and local CTE dollars can be spent, calling for a greater focus on “activities that are most closely related to CTE program quality and student achievement.”

Despite some concerns overall, advocates celebrate the renewed focus on CTE. In a joint press release, Advance CTE and the Association for Career & Technical Education said, “The resources provided through this law will assist states and local public education providers in their efforts to ensure both secondary and postsecondary learners have the skills and experiences that will provide a pathway to the middle class, while also meeting the needs of large and small employers across the nation.”

CTE Landscape in Minnesota

The Perkins Act requires CTE programs to meet state and local needs. In Minnesota, this responsibility falls to the Minnesota State (Colleges and Universities) Board of Trustees, the sole “agency authorized to receive and disburse the Carl D. Perkins federal funds and to supervise the administration of the state [CTE] program … jointly with the Minnesota Department of Education.”

Since fiscal year 2009, Perkins funds have been distributed by a consortia comprised of at least one secondary district and at least one postsecondary institution. Last year, Minnesota received $16,684,637 in Perkins funds, with 42 percent distributed to secondary schools and 58 percent distributed to postsecondary institutions.

Even with this investment, Minnesota faces a skilled worker shortage with baby boomers retiring and a 17 year-low unemployment. By spring of this year, Minnesota had only added a third the number of jobs as spring 2017. In a Star Tribune piece, one Minneapolis-based tech CEO, Mynul Khan, told how his firm had plenty of jobs to fill, but no one to fill them. “We are growing 30 to 40 percent year-over-year … And we have a growth plan. We just need more talent.”

Schools know the business community needs skilled workers, which underscores the importance of Perkins. “This critical legislation and commitment to continued workforce development by Congress will evolve our economy and provide experiences for students across Minnesota and the nation through innovative pathways into high-wave, in-demand careers well into the future,” said Troy Haugen, Career & Technical Education Coordinator at Lakes Country Service Cooperative, one of 26 CTE consortia in the state.

While reauthorization is good news for Minnesota’s students and workforce, there are other factors that impact CTE education in Minnesota. For instance, we’re among the two-thirds of states with a shortage of CTE teachers.

As legislators look for ways to address the shortage, there’s another hiccup: teacher salaries can’t compete with technical fields.

A 2017 report from MDE on teacher supply and demand cited the need for financial incentives to attract teachers to shortage areas like CTE. This is all the more true when jobs in technical fields can offer highly competitive compensation. Compounding the problem for rural schools, Greater Minnesota is already struggling to attract teachers.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on Minnesota’s CTE programs as they are impacted by the new legislation.

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MDE Announces Spring 2018 Charter Startup & Replication Grant Winners

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) announced the winners of the spring 2018 round of federal Charter School Program (CSP) Startup and Replication/Expansion grants. The seven winners are below.

Start-Up Grantees

  • Gateway STEM Academy: Authorized by Pillsbury United Communities, Gateway plans to open in Fall 2018 in Skakopee. In its first year, Gateway intends to serve grades K-5, with 50 students in each grade or 300 students total.
  • Minnesota Wildflower Montessori School: Authorized by the Audubon Center of the North Woods (Audubon), Acorn Montessori Preschool will open Fall 2018 in Minneapolis. Acorn will serve students ages 3-6 with 30 students total to start. Part of the national Wildflowers Montessori network, Acorn will be the first Spanish, English, and Chinese immersion school in the Twin Cities. The school will also focus on creating a learning environment that is child-directed, mixed-age, and teacher-led.
  • SciTech Academy: Authorized by the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, SciTech plans to open fall 2018. In its first year, SciTech plans to serve students in grades K-5 in Richfield, with a total of 150 students. According to their website, they will offer their students foreign language instruction in Somali language and culture three days a week starting in kindergarten. Students will also take Arabic and Spanish as they reach the upper grades. Additionally, SciTech’s curriculum will also focus on exposing students to technology, engineering, life sciences, earth and more.
  • The Studio School: Authorized by Novation Education Opportunities, Studio plans to open in the Fall 2019 in Minneapolis. Studio will serve students in grades 9-12, with a total of 225 students planned for its first year. According to their website, Studio will offer a “studio-based visual arts, media arts, design, and engineering focused curriculum” that is combined with experiential, service-learning opportunities.

Significant Expansion/Replication Grantees

  • Academy for Sciences and Agriculture (AFSA): Authorized by Audubon, AFSA plans to add grades in PreK-4 in Vadnais Heights. Currently, AFSA serves 371 students in grades 5-12. AFSA is focused on preparing students for post-secondary education, meeting students’ individual needs, and preparing students for careers in science, business, and technology.
  • New Discoveries Montessori Academy: Authorized by Audubon, New Discoveries plans to add grades 7-8 in Hutchinson. Currently, New Discoveries serves 156 students in grades PreK-6. New Discoveries’ goal is to foster self-motivation, compassion, independence, critical thinking, respect for others, as well as social and personal responsibility in its students.
  • Prodeo Academy: Authorized by Innovative Quality Schools, Prodeo will expand to a new campus in Saint Paul in Fall 2018. In its first year, Prodeo will serve students in grades PreK-1, and will add a new class each year until it reaches 8th grade and serving over 800 students. Prodeo provides individualized instruction for every student, and works to ensure that all students are engaged and excited about their learning.

Overview of Minnesota’s CSP Grants

In 2012, MDE received $28 million from the United States Department of Education (USDE) to be used over the course of five years for grants to charter schools in the state. After the spring 2016 round of CSP grants and the five year grant period ended, MDE had about $12 million in grant money remaining. In December 2016, MDE received a one-year, no cost extension from USDE for the CSP program.

In September 2017, MDE was awarded another five-year, $45.8 million CSP grant from USDE.

This grant was part of the first cohort of CSP grants awarded under the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, Minnesota was one of nine state education agencies to win a CSP grant, out of 22 that applied. Relatedly, seventeen charter management organizations, which are nonprofit groups that run networks of charter schools, won CSP grants.

What is the CSP Grant Program?

The CSP program consists of two grants—Startup and Replication/Expansion. The Startup Grant is intended for charter schools that are in development or in their first two years of operation. The award ranges from $100,000 to $225,000 each year for up to three years. In order to be eligible for the grant, the charter school must be approved by an authorizer and obtain a new charter school "affidavit" from MDE.

The Replication/Expansion Grant is for charter schools that plan to significantly expand or replicate, serve at least 200 students, and are also identified by the MDE as “high-quality”. The high-quality designation is based on multiple measures of a school’s operational, academic, and financial performance.

Like the Startup Grant, the Replication/Expansion grant award ranges from $100,000 to $225,000 each year for up to three years, with the first year intended for planning and the other two years for carrying out the expansion.

Each year, MDE carries out two grant cycles. The next application cycle will be in the Fall 2018.

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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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