Update for February 2016: Preparing for the onslaught!

/ 12 February 2016 / Shawna

Remember that legislative session begins on March 8, but education committees are already meeting. Find those meeting dates readily accessible on the state’s website. If you are truly interested in tracking the session, bookmark that page!

Since construction has closed the Capitol building, hearings will be scheduled in the Minnesota Senate Building (MSB) as well as the State Office Building (SOB).

Legislative Kickoffs in metro AND central Minnesota

Parents United will host its annual Legislative Kick-off on March 5 for the metro area at the TIES building and for central Minnesota on March 12 in St. Cloud.

This is our favorite meeting of the year since we have a chance to be together and share what we expect to see as education priorities in the upcoming legislative session. Please register today! For more information and registration: St. Paul on March 5 or St. Cloud on March 12.

MDE Early Learning Scholarships Program Evaluation Report

As required by statute, the MDE contracted 2 external providers to evaluate the Early Learning Scholarship Program. The findings were shared with the Senate Education Committee and it is a safe bet that these results—in some form–will be used in future legislation.

The report analyzed the scholarship amount for its appropriateness and focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the scholarships, as well as their impact on Kindergarten readiness.

The key recommendations were to:

  • Maintain the $7500 scholarship cap
  • Continue improvement in the Early Learning Scholarship Administration System (ELSA)
  • Implement risk management protocols (regional administrations report being ill-prepared to identify fraud)
  • Investigate data sharing opportunities (specifically between the Departments of Humans Services and Education DHS and MDE)
  • Prioritize children with the greatest risk factors within the scholarship program

The Early Learning Scholarships Program Evaluation Report is available on the MDE website.

The impact on Minnesota Federal ESSA legislation

The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015. ESSA is a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary School Act. Its most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind, expired in 2007, and its reauthorization has been in limbo since.

The law preserves some of the same goals and priorities as NCLB and Minnesota’s NCLB waiver, but some areas allow the state more authority and flexibility.

Two provisions of special interest: First, the law calls for students to have a “well-rounded” education and second, high minority and high poverty students cannot disproportionately be assigned to classrooms with “ineffective teachers.” Both “well-rounded” and “ineffective” will need to be defined at the state level.

A great resource for ESSA, including the most current information, can be found at the Alliance for Excellent Education.

ESSA requires:

Assessments and Data Reporting

  • Annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school
  • 1% of special education students allowed an alternative assessment
  • Test scores still need to be disaggregated by the 9 student subgroups
  • Additionally data must be disaggregated by homeless, foster and military status


  • States must set long-term goals and interim progress measurements
  • Measurements must include math and reading achievement, growth, graduation rate, English proficiency and at least one measure of school quality
  • Schools are expected to reach 95% test participation (consequences for missing that target are up to the state)

School Support

  • States identify schools needing comprehensive support and improvement: bottom 5% of schools, high schools with grad rates below 67% and schools with any low-performing student group
  • State may permit differentiated improvement activities for high schools focused on dropout or credit recovery
  • Educator evaluation is permitted, not required

The signing of this law allows Minnesota to revise its current accountability system. It allows Minnesota to align this new system to our state’s World’s Best Workforce legislation, which shares some similar requirements and goals. It allows Minnesota to consider what measures reflect a quality school. It allows for a system steeped in equity.

This work will be Minnesota specific and done in our state over the next year. If you wish to be part of this revamping, I suggest you make it known. Let us know and we will provide your information to those working on the issues.

Even though the reauthorization has been signed into law, we are a long way from implementation. The federal Department of Education must set rules; those rules must be vetted through a public process, returning to the DOE for further revision. The answers to many questions may have to wait for this process to be completed. Even on a fast track this process will not be completed before we elect a new president, who will choose a new Secretary of Education.

Mark your calendars for March 1

Minnesota nominates candidates for election through a caucus process. This year’s precinct caucuses will be held on March 1. You can attend your precinct caucus if you are 18 years old and eligible to register to vote in the November general election. You choose the caucus you wish to attend by being in general agreement with a party’s principles. No previous party affiliation is required.  Those in attendance will vote on resolutions to be considered for inclusion in the party’s platform. You can weigh in on your preference for president and select delegates to attend the county convention. Delegates who will attend the state convention and make decisions on party platform will be elected from those who attend at the county level.

This is an opportunity to meet with your neighbors and raise issues you believe need to be dealt with in a broader venue. You begin the process by submitting a resolution. Anyone can submit a resolution. DFL resolution forms and GOP resolution forms are readily available.

There is no required format for writing a resolution, but if you would like to see an exemplar, we have sample caucus resolutions that Parents United has developed.

This is the night where Minnesotans can have a big impact on the parties’ priorities!

Worth a Second Look

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What is Parents United’s agenda? Our agenda is simple: we don’t speak for parents, but work to provide credible, timely information about education policy and the law-making process so parents can speak for themselves. Truth be told, Parents United is a translator of complex terms and policy implications, as well as a navigator for a legislative process often oblique to the public.