Whether Minnesota rates every school with 1-5 stars or provides a multiple measures online dashboard for each school and district will a defining legacy of this Legislature and Governor. Both have been proposed.

5-Star Rating

An Academic Achievement [Five Star] Rating System set forth in the House Omnibus Education Policy bill (HF 3315DE1 Article 2, Section 18) passed out of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee Thursday evening.  Chair Erickson’s version of the rating system is very close to that proposed by Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Roz Peterson in HF 3178.

In the omnibus bill, every “district, school site or charter school must… include a prominent display… of the star rating….”

The Five Star Rating System for primary schools would combine reading and math proficiency and growth rates, low income and students of color gap scores, ELL proficiency, and consistent attendance into 1-5 stars. For secondary schools, four-year graduation rate gap score would replace growth rates.

Dashboard

This comes as the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) continues to develop a more comprehensive dashboard.

Minnesota’s ESSA plan, developed with extensive stakeholder involvement over nearly two years cites “…the importance of having a system that is transparent and used by families, communities and educators.

The dashboard would aim to provide a variety of measures so users can fully understand the context of a school, including student outcomes, climate indicators, funding information, access to a well-rounded education, teacher and school leader factors (including access to student support services), and student demographics.  (Title I, Part A: Accountability pp. 3-4)

MDE has assembled a Dashboard Stakeholder Group that is advising MDE on the dashboard development.  At the March 14 meeting, which MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan attended, MDE presented a mock-up dashboard that include 12 colored ‘buttons’ containing information on achievement, growth, attendance, ELL, and graduation would be on the screen.

When hovering over a button, the underlying graph would appear.  As Nolan described it to the House Education Innovation Policy Committee, “At a glance one could see how a school was doing on multiple measures.”  Learn more on the Dashboard Development

Disagreement

This major disagreement should not be a surprise. In an October 18, 2017 letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recommending the rejection of Minnesota’s ESSA plan submitted by the Minnesota Department of Education, Chair Erickson and House Education Chair Loon called for “…a report card with a summative rating on a school that will allow parents to compare schools and find the best fit for their children…” Read the letter..

In testimony before the House Education Policy Committee three organizations voiced support for the Five-Star rating system: Minnesota Business Partnership, EdAllies and the Latino Youth Development Collaborative in Minneapolis.

MREA and other organizations representing school districts and administrators and educators voiced concerns and recommended the committee wait on mandating a rating system and allow MDE time to complete a dashboard

Purpose

Both the dashboard and five-star system will allow parents to compare schools.  The question is which will serve Minnesota’s families and educators better going forward.

If simplicity is the only goal of an information system, then the five-star system wins hands down. But that simplicity compromises the final product:

  • Combining six or more calculations into one score loses all transparency in the process. This was the issue with MMR; no one could explain exactly why one school rated higher than another.
  • Parents and educators have diverse interests in information, and a dashboard gives them access more quickly to data they may want.
  • ESSA’s major change from NCLB is to raise the questions: What is a well-rounded education and how is it measured? A dashboard can accommodate additional buttons as these measures are developed.  A five-star is locked in.  To change its factors makes trend data meaningless.
  • A star rating system using primarily MCA measures of reading and math achievement will cause Minnesota schools to double down on reading and math MCA prep. The nation has had a dozen years of this behavior. This will take Minnesota schools away from considerations of a well rounded education and back to over-reliance on single-day test scores.  Learn more

HF3315 was referred from to the House Education Finance Committee.  The Senate E-12 Policy Committee will take up its policy bill SF3086 Thursday at 3 pm.  This critical choice of systems to provide information on schools will likely be on the Senate agenda as well.

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