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Minnesota Legislature

School ranking a possibility

Published (2/24/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Minnesota schools might face new evaluations from the Education Department, with low performers needing to submit a turnaround strategy for improvement.

Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) sponsors HF2180 that establishes measurable areas of progress for the state’s public schools. The House Education Reform Committee approved the bill Feb. 21 to move to the House Education Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

The bill provides that the commissioner would rank schools based on student proficiency and growth on assessments; the rate at which student disparities decrease; and graduation statistics. Of schools that receive Title I funds, which aid schools with higher poverty rates, the 5 percent that performed the lowest will need to submit a turnaround strategy for improvement.

Under the bill, possible strategies for low-performing schools include converting into a charter school, implementing evaluation systems for staff, being replaced by a new school and transferring students to other schools in the district.

The bill prompted questions, including whether it would nullify the No Child Left Behind waiver the state recently received. Minnesota is one of 10 states with a waiver, which relieves schools from the heavily criticized education requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said that she is concerned that the bill “puts back the federal mandate.” Garofalo responded the bill would not interfere with the waiver.

Jim Bartholomew, education policy director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, praised the bill for taking action on low-performing schools.

“This creates a structure for how the state will address concerns over those schools whose student performance consistently ranks in the bottom 5 percent,” he said.

Jan Alswager, chief lobbyist for the state’s teachers union, Education Minnesota, disagreed. She acknowledged, “Certainly there could be some changes in turnaround schools.” However, she criticized the bill’s timeline, saying it moved too quickly. She urged for more collaboration between legislators and teachers.

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