Increasing School Achievement

“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” ~Abigail Adams
Recently, Minnesota schools were freed from the strict federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. Our state may now implement an accountability plan that works to benefit our students. The NCLB waiver, which was granted by President Obama to ten states, is good news for Minnesota students and schools. The waivers will:
• Provide the state’s schools with an appropriate accountability model to fit our needs.
• Broaden student academic success.
• Help close the state’s achievement gap.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is working with school districts, teachers and parents to find research-based local solutions in the schools that are identified as most in need of additional help. There are four main questions that MDE will be looking at to measure school performance:
• Did the school meet its target for Adequate Yearly Progress?
• Did each student grow and by how much?
• Did all subgroups grow and how fast was that growth?
• Did graduation rates improve for all students?
To help accomplish the goals set out in receiving the waiver from NCLB, the state will now use multiple ways to measure student success, instead of one test that may not provide the complete picture needed to determine if students are achieving academic goals.
With the use of these measures, schools will be designated as one of the following:
• Reward Schools. Top 15 percent of schools on the four performance measures. Reward Schools will be publicly recognized for their great work.
• Priority Schools. Bottom 5 percent of schools on the four measures. These schools will work directly with the state to develop and implement a turnaround plan that will dramatically change the way the school operates.
• Focus Schools. Ten percent of schools with greatest contribution to state gaps. Focus schools will work with their districts, utilizing technical assistance from MDE, to develop and implement an improvement plan that will directly address the specific needs of low- performing student subgroups.
A decade of NCLB has not provided the academic success necessary for our students. Our achievement gap is exactly the same as it was when NCLB was instituted a decade ago. With this plan in place, MDE’s goal is to reduce the achievement gap by 50 percent in six years.
If you are interested in knowing more about area school districts involvement in these changes, visit their website or call your local school to see how you can help. Visit the MDE’s website (http://education.state.mn.us) to find contact information.
As Abigail Adams said, we cannot stand back and achieve success by chance. We need to take bold action to ensure that our students are getting the proper tools succeed. I believe this is a step in the right direction.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.
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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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