Implementing Minnesota’s ambitious ESSA plan and integrating it into the World’s Best Work Force are now the challenges of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), state policy makers, and school leaders.

MDE anticipates identifying an estimated 300-400 schools through ESSA for support and identifying an estimated 50 districts, or 10 percent of all districts and charters, through the World’s Best Work Force (WBWF) for support. These schools and districts will enter an improvement planning year in 2018-19 supported by Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) staff with improvement plans to be implemented in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

This is a significant increase from the 85 schools currently being supported for improvement and is approximately 20 percent of all schools and charters in the state.  MREA has compiled a one-page table summarizing the categories of school support and types of schools and districts projected to be identified for the support.

“MDE is to be commended for its inclusive outreach in developing an ambitious ESSA plan to ensure all students in Minnesota have what they need to succeed,” said Fred Nolan, executive director MREA. “Putting it into practice will require significant work and collaboration and could have a significant and measurable impact on the educational achievements and graduation rates of all our state’s students.”

MDE received approval of the plan from the U.S. Department of Education on Jan. 10. View the news release from MDE.

From MREA’s discussions with MDE staff responsible for implementation and from the plan and related documents, here is a preview of what to expect:


  1. Awareness
    MDE intends to build a greater awareness of the goals and activities included in the plan with awareness and outreach meetings. Ones via the web will be more informational. Regional meetings are intended to be more conversational with more Q&A.
  2. Regional Centers of Excellence
    MDE has been staffing up Regional Centers of Excellence with subject area specialists, graduation specialists and principals’ coaches. They have divided the state into thirds, (North, Central and South) to provide all areas of the state access to this specialized support.View the RCE Organizational Chart. These staff will probably be introduced at the regional meetings.
  3. Early Alert
    An early alert will be given to an estimated 180-200 high schools (in districts and charters) graduating fewer than 67 percent overall or for any student group (20 students or more). This will be based on the three-year average starting in 2015.  These schools can appeal their designation. Final designation will occur Aug. 27  and become public Aug. 30.  These schools will receive support from the RCE’s beginning in 2018-19.
  4. Tools
    A comprehensive needs assessment tool and a non-exhaustive list of evidence-based practices purchases/products, policies, and programs for school improvement plans will be made available to schools and the public.


The other categories of schools in ESSA to receive support will get initial notification in early August with the opportunity to appeal the designation.

Final designations will be made Aug. 27 to schools and made public Aug. 30.  These designations will be based on MCA scores from 2016-18.

  • Bottom 5 percent of schools receiving Title I funds identified through the funnel methodology described in the plan and the Executive Summary
  • Schools with any student group performing similarly to the bottom 5 percent of schools
  • Schools where one or more groups are consistently underperforming based on the thresholds used to identify the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools
  • Title I schools that would have been in the bottom 5 percent except having their consistent attendance high enough not be identified in the last stage of the funnel.

Additionally, an estimated 50 school districts, or 10 percent of all districts and charters, “not making sufficient progress toward improving teaching and learning for all students” (MS 120B.11) in 2015-17 on their World’s Best Work Force (WBWF) goals will be identified.

2018-19 School Year

  1. Conducting Assessments, Taking Action
    RCE staff will provide technical assistance for identified schools and districts to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, select evidenced based practices for improvement, create an improvement plan and address resource inequities. School districts will be responsible to support schools designated for support and ensure that their improvement plans will be adequately resourced.
  2. Seeking Input
    MDE, with input from work groups and focus groups, is working on the following:
  • A redesign of the current report card into a “dashboard” with multiple measures
  • School recognition
  • A measure of ‘well rounded education’ for use in 2024 and beyond.

Watch for more information later this year regarding progress on these issues with expected rollout in 18/19.

With the exception of schools where one or more student groups are consistently underperforming, which will occur every year, there will be no further identification of schools or districts for support until 2021.

ESSA Resources

ESSA State Plan Executive Summary
(Overviews history, rationale and plan highlights)

Minnesota State ESSA Plan – Decisions Document
(Overview of the core plan)

Full ESSA Plan

Plan Development and Related Documents
(Additional background and details)