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MinnCan education advocacy group touts many ‘wins’ in legislative session

Thr group working to close the achievement gap says session brought many wins, some losses.

The education advocacy group MinnCan says the legislative session brought many wins in its quest for more school funding and education reform.

In a note to supporters, Executive Director Daniel Sellers said:

“As the local reform foot soldiers, we’re happy to report several wins this legislative session. We also had some hard-fought losses.”

His scorecard:

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Increasing access to quality pre-K: A WIN

  • Win: Minnesota is investing $40 million to increase access to quality pre-K for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds. While historic, this investment isn’t perfect. Just days before the end of the legislative session the Minnesota Department of Education imposed an arbitrary cap on the pre-K scholarships given to families and put limitations on program eligibility.

Strengthening charter schools: FOUR WINS AND A LOSS

  • Win: In a move to boost accountability, charter authorizers are now required to prepare annual reports to track student achievement, as well as operational and financial performance.
  • Win: Charter schools now have more equitable funding. As public schools, they too benefit from the per-pupil funding increases.
  • Loss: We went head-to-head with the union for a provision encouraging the closure of charter schools performing in the bottom quartile of all public schools.
  • Win: New legislation states “improvement of pupil learning and student achievement” must be the primary purpose of charter schools. Previously, schools chose from amongst six purposes when applying for or renewing their contract. And contracts must declare how schools will carry and report this primary purpose.
  • Win: Failure to demonstrate satisfactory academic achievement for all students is now defined clearly as a reason for contract non-renewal or termination.

Supporting great teachers: TWO WINS AND A LOSS

  • Win: Our testimony helped to bring refined focus to the teacher skills exam, including allowing the Board of Teaching short-term flexibility to offer otherwise qualified teacher candidates up to two one-year limited licenses while they attempt to pass the career entrance exam. We also initiated a department task force to review licensure skills assessments for the long haul. We need to end our one-size-fits-all approach to licensure but maintain safeguards against having unqualified beginning teachers in our schools–and align licensure requirements with the knowledge, skills and mindsets necessary for success in a 21st-century classroom. This is inclusive of teacher preparation programs ensuring licensure requirements are predictive of success in the classroom.
  • Win: In response to pleas from Education Minnesota, the Minnesota School Board Association and Minnesota Association of School Administrators, several DFL legislators tried to delay the implementation of Minnesota’s new teacher evaluation system – even after Gov. Dayton recommended $10 million in funding for it.
  • Loss: We teamed up with principals to place more Teach For America teachers in high-need communities. Despite a bipartisan support, and an offer to match the state’s investment two-to-one with private dollars, Gov. Dayton line item vetoed the appropriation. As a result, Minnesota has taken two steps backwards to place stellar, diverse teachers where they’re needed the most.