Education Policy Bill Passes

ST. PAUL, MINN. – Today, in a bipartisan vote of 37 to 27, the MN Senate passed the 2014 Education Policy bill after similar House action earlier last week. Adopting Governor Dayton’s “Invest to Progress” approach to education, the comprehensive bill is full of meaningful reform to go along with the new levels of investment made in schools following last year’s bill. It focuses on major reform to English Language Learner instruction, re-design of the Adult Diploma and new ways for teacher candidates to demonstrate quality skills for licensure, and all based on Minnesota’s high academic standards and achievement-gap-closing goals.

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

The bill transforms how Minnesota teaches its English Language Learners (ELL) by affirming the student’s home language and using it as a gateway to academic English, to grade level content knowledge and for nurturing multi-lingual proficiency. As a result, Minnesota will be better able to close academic gaps and better prepared to prosper in the 21st century with citizens capable of engaging powerfully in the global society.

“Latino, Somali, Hmong and other immigrant youth are the fastest growing student groups in the classroom,” said Chair of the Senate Education Policy Committee Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis). “These reforms will give our students the practices they need to graduate, get good jobs and become full members of our community.”

“This bill was informed by effective practices unfolding in various school districts across the nation. We sought advice from researchers and educators both in Minnesota and at major universities from other states,” added Chair of the House Education Policy Committee Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul). “I’m looking forward to the governor’s quick signing of the bill and these reforms going into effect.”

All students will also see their multi-lingual capacities embraced; students who demonstrate proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing both in English and in a foreign language would be awarded with a bilingual or multilingual academic seal. The seals could earn the student college credit.

Other reforms and changes in the bill include:

· Standard Adult High School Diploma: Adult learners will have access to a system that recognizes their competencies, skills, knowledge, and experiences and allows them to work toward an adult diploma equivalent to standard high school diplomas. This will provide more opportunities to access post-secondary opportunities.

· Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam (MTLE): Teachers must take and pass the MTLE skills sub-test or receive an equivalent score on the ACT or the SAT. All teacher candidates are still required to take and pass the MTLE teaching sub-tests.

· Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children: By joining the Compact, already adopted in 47 other states and the District of Columbia, Minnesota will ensure that its districts will assist children of military families who often encounter unique educational barriers due to frequent moves and school transitions around the country. Minnesota will establish a state council that will assist school districts implement the Compact’s flexible rules on a range of issues including educational records transfer, course placement and attendance, extracurricular activities, and graduation.

· Teacher Probationary Period Changes: New teachers who have their three-year probationary period interrupted for maternity, paternity or medical leave but return within 12 months can be considered to have a consecutive term.

· Unsession Reforms: Removes obsolete language, redundancies and unnecessary provisions in state law, to help streamline the states laws on education.

With passage of the Education Policy Bill in the legislature, the bill awaits the Governor’s signature for final enactment into law.

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Senator Patricia Torres Ray
Patricia Torres Ray represents District 63, which includes portions of southeastern Minneapolis and eastern Richfield in Hennepin County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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