ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Education submitted its plan to increase the equity of educational results to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.
The plan has been drafted over the last two years in accordance with the Every Student Succeeds Act which was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in December 2015. This law replaced the No Child Left Behind Act as the federal education law for K-12 education in the United States.
“At its heart, ESSA is a civil rights law,” reads the executive summary of Minnesota’s plan. “It reminds us that every child has a right to an excellent education, regardless of circumstances that are outside of their control like the ZIP code in which they live or their socioeconomic status.”
Much of the plan seems to focus on low-income, migratory, or otherwise at-risk students.
The definition of “education equity” was not crafted by the Minnesota Department of Education, but was instead written by outside advocacy group Voices for Racial Justice
Non-English speakers will see aspects of Minnesota’s standardized tests tweaked to cater to them, as some academic words in the science and math exams will be translated into Spanish, Hmong, and Somali. These three languages were identified by the state as significant languages aside from English spoken by students.
The state will also provide support to schools with English learning students. Schools only need to have one such student in order to qualify for this type of support.
Additionally, schools with a graduation rate of under 67 percent for any group of students will be rewarded for their failures with additional support from the state. Minnesota estimates somewhere between 300 and 400 schools will qualify for this support.
Perhaps most importantly, the state will begin attempting to define what is and is not an effective teacher. There are growing concerns that low-income school districts or districts in predominantly non-white communities generally receive teachers of a lesser quality. The definition is still fairly non-concrete regarding what constitutes an “ineffective teacher.”
“For the purpose of evaluating equitable access data, an ineffective teacher shall be defined as a teacher who is not meeting professional teaching standards as defined in local teacher development and evaluation,” reads one part of the department’s equity plan.
Most changes laid out in this plan will not go into effect for Minnesota’s school system until the 2018-19 school year. The U.S. Department of Education has 120 days in which to give final approval for Minnesota’s plan before preparation for implementation begins in earnest.