The Minnesota Department of Education released a draft of its ESSA plan this week and is now seeking input on it.

In front of a well-attended joint meeting of the Minnesota House and Senate Education Policy Committees on Wednesday, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius began her testimony with five broad themes MDE heard in over 300 stakeholder meetings on ESSA.

They include:

  • Focus on all students, don’t leave out any students
  • Provide a well-rounded education
  • Support schools and districts
  • Build a strong alliance with World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) legislation
  • Use more plain language and have an easier to use reporting website for parents

MDE will post the official draft plan on Aug. 1 on its website for a 30-day public comment period.  Comments may be submitted online or at one of six evening public meetings.

View MDE ESSA Decisions Document

View the full MDE draft ESSA plan

Public Comment Meetings

August 15 – St Paul

August 16 – Rochester

August 17 – Mankato

August 21 – Moorhead

August 22 – St Cloud

August 23 – Duluth

The plan must be submitted to U.S. Department of Education by Sept. 18. Then the USDOE has 120 days to respond.

Inside the Plan

The plan uses five accountability indicators and a “funnel” approach to identifying schools identified for support as outlined in the MDE Decisions Document—a two-page summary of the plan.

The plan is different from the current NCLB Waiver in significant ways:

  • There is no overall school “score” as in the current MMR. School data will be shared as a “dashboard” of all the data.
  • ‘Consistent attendance’ defined as 90% attendance in school is the new fifth measure of school quality and student engagement, and will be used as the final determiner of whether Title I schools will be identified for support.
  • High schools which do not graduate at least 67% of any student group will be identified for support. Federal law requires the identification of schools not graduating 67% of all students.  The MDE plan extends this to all student groups. This was described in MDE testimony as a “real statement on equity.”
  • English Language Proficiency (ELL) is part of ESSA accountability and not a separate system.
  • Non-Title I schools and Title I schools are subject to identification for support based on the performance of student groups which are “consistently under-performing” or performing worse than all students of the lowest performing 5% of Title I schools.
  • The state goals are the same for all student groups.

School Support

A much higher number of schools will be identified for support in the ESSA plan than in the waiver Greg Keith, MDE Chief Academic Officer, reported to the joint committee hearing.  He went to say that MDE is estimating about 500 schools will be identified for either direct support or support to districts to provide support to the school site.

MREA has compiled a one-page table summarizing the categories of school support and types of schools projected to be identified for the support. View the table.

These 500 schools represent one-quarter of the 2,051 schools in Minnesota. Keith acknowledged that “This will be quite a change for our model.  It changes on how RCE’s (Regional Centers of Excellence) will be working with schools.”

He described how there will be an increased use of needs assessment process, including looking at inequities in financial resources and teacher talent. MDE will produce a non-exhaustive list of evidenced practices from which schools can choose from but don’t have to.

School identification and support will be on a three-year planning cycle with a planning/exploration year and two implementation years which aligns with WBWF.

The resources for increasing RCE staff will come from leveraging the state set-aside in Title I funds, which will increase from 4 percent to 7 percent, according to Keith.

When pressed by Chair Sondra Erickson on the costs, Keith responded that to this in a comprehensive manner would require an additional $8 million in state funding.

Chair Erickson urged the department to make this more than just a compliance model.  She concluded that she wants MDE to come back in late August to the Committees and focus on reporting to parents at that time.

View MDE Draft ESSA Plan

View MDE ESSA Decisions Document