All public school children must have equal access to a high quality education regardless of where they live in Minnesota.

Legislative Update  
A c ommunication for education advocates in SEE districts.
February 1, 2019  
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What is happening at the Capitol
Last Friday and this Monday, the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee heard about P-TECH and reading strategies. In 2015, 53% of all jobs were middle-skills jobs, requiring technical training after high school but not traditional four-year, or more, college degrees. However, only 43% of the labor force has the necessary education. Numerous partnerships between industry, high schools, and community colleges are surfacing around the nation. IBM is heavily invested in P-TECH and appeared before the committee to discuss this 6-year public school model that takes 9 th-grade students through high school and a 2-year technical community college program focusing on STEM fields and Career and Technical Education. IBM has a large facility in Rochester and wants to work with the legislature to bring P-TECH programming to Minnesota schools. See the P-TECH presentation and the video.

The Senate committee also delved into evidence-based reading research and strategies. Students are learning to read up until 4 th grade but are expected to learn by reading after that. Students who are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade are much more likely not to graduate. One in five children struggles with reading. Enhancing reading instruction will help close the achievement gap and benefit all students. The committee first heard a presentation on evidence-based reading research. They also heard from the Reading Corps program, which significantly improves reading outcomes by providing schools with trained tutors for working one-on-one with students. See the Reading Corps presentation.   Finally, the committee heard from The Reading Center at the Dyslexia Institute of America. This organization strongly advocates for reading curriculum and instruction that incorporate four specific components found in Orton-Gillingham Reading Intervention System. Apparently, this is an very effective reading program, particularly with dyslexic students, but it is expensive. See the Reading Center presentations.

Chair Carla Nelson introduced a bill - SF733 - that would require school districts, with student performing in the bottom 25% in reading proficiency, to reimburse any teacher who takes and successfully completes training provided by Orton-Gillingham or two other specified reading programs. It would also allow hiring bonuses for teachers trained in the prescribed reading programs if they are licensed in or working in a shortage area. However, no funding is provided. Chair Nelson also has SF295, which would establish P-TECH schools in Minnesota. Both these bills and bills around dyslexia screening and teacher training will be heard in committee next week. See the SEE bill summary to track which bills are moving in the education committees.
Student Testing
Increasingly, students, parents, and educators are frustrated with the amount of time students spend taking state and local tests. Parents are expressing their frustration by opting their children out of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA). Over 70% of the students in a high school in St. Louis Park opted out last spring, and other schools are seeing high rates of opt-outs as well. The House Education Policy Committee hosted members from the Future Assessment Design Working Group. The group took a deep dive into the interaction between the federally mandated Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), the state MCAs and the local tests such as the MAP Growth Assessments that measure the individual student growth. 

Although many in the working group were looking for radical change, they concluded there is not a single test that would provide statistically valid results in measuring both alignment to state academic standards and individual student growth. ESSA requires states to measure student achievement toward standards. The MCA tests do that well and are a tool to guide curriculum and instruction at the district, school and grade level. However, the MCA tests are not good at assessing the student-level information that parents, students and teachers desire. Thus, the Working Group recommended that the state make the MCAs as short as possible and educate all stakeholders on the power and limitations of the MCA tests. See the  Future Assessment Design Working Group Report and  the presentation.

As always, see  Brad's Blog for more details on what is happening at the Capitol.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. 


Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach