K-12 reform tailored to Minnesota’s needs

In 2002, Congress passed major legislation that dramatically affected our local schools and created a decade of burdensome testing and undeserved sanctions for our students and their schools. Since its introduction, teachers, administrators and parents across the state have been calling for relief from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Now, thanks to a waiver granted by President Obama, that relief is finally here. Minnesota is one of 10 states that have been granted flexibility to choose their own path toward education reform. We now have an opportunity to implement an accountability plan that is tailored specifically for Minnesota students.

This is welcome news for our state. The current parameters of NCLB have not provided the academic success necessary for our students and Minnesota needs to take bold action to improve student success.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) should be applauded for their work on the waiver request. With input from parents, educators, community members, policymakers and experts in the field of education, MDE created a new accountability system will provide a better, fairer way to measure how our schools–and students–are doing.

With the accountability system in place, MDE will be able to work 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. MDE will look at the following questions to measure school performance:

o Focus on closing the state’s stubborn achievement gap;

o Contain more than one growth measurement that’s based on something other than one high-stakes test;

o Create incentives for schools that achieve high performance;

o Provide support for locally-developed school improvement plans.

For the first time since 2002, the state has a solid plan to directly address the achievement gap–which has not budged one percentage point in the past decade–with the goal to cut it 50 percent in six years.

Under the NCLB waiver, the state will use various ways–rather than one test–to get a complete picture of students’ academic success. One test or two, as is the case now, cannot and should not determine total educational quality for students, schools and classrooms. This is good news for students, teachers, schools and parents who have struggled to make sense of the testing labyrinth.

We have been given a great opportunity with the NCLB waiver and need to make the most of it. This is our chance to close the achievement gap and give all Minnesota students a quality education.

If you are interested in knowing more about the NCLB waiver, visit MDE’s website (http://education.state.mn.us) and search for “NCLB”.

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Senator Katie Sieben
Assistant Majority Leader Senate District 54
Katie Sieben is the Assistant Majority Leader and represents District 54, which includes portions of Dakota and Washington counties. She is the chair of the Subcommittee on Elections and the vice chair of the Rules and Administration Committee.

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