ST. PAUL, Minn.- GOP members of the Minnesota legislature reached out to Secretary of Education Betsy Devos about rejecting the state’s new education plan.
Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) reached out to Devos on Oct. 18, stating Minnesota’s current education plan, “lacks transparency and clarity.” Erickson and Loon also believe the plan circumvents the legislature in determining education policy in Minnesota. Another major criticism is that the plan looks to give Minnesota’s proficiency test, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), less weight in deeming schools proficient or not.
“We believe Minnesota needs a (plan) that is truly innovative and addresses these concerns,” the letter said.
The new plan was required by the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama, which looked to create changes in the way that schools were evaluated, amongst other things.
“Minnesota will use a funnel approach that filters schools to find those that are low across all indicators,” the plan reads, “The process first checks school performance on the academic indicators, including academic achievement, English language proficiency, academic progress and graduation rates, and lastly, the process evaluates every school’s consistent attendance rates.”
Erickson and Loon say the system would not provide an overall assessment of the schools.
According to the West Central Tribune, state education commissioner Brenda Cassellius felt that the letter was untimely, sending out a rebuttal letter on Oct. 19.
“I am confident they will find it to be not only compliant with federal statutory requirements,” Cassellius’ letter said, “but more importantly, that (it) is focused on achieving equitable outcomes for students across our state and providing strategic support to the educators and schools that serve them.”
While the debate between Erickson, Loon, and Cassellius is mostly confined to the area of public schools and public school funding, the school choice option, a key platform piece of Secretary Devos’ agenda, circumvents some of the debate.
“With a school choice program, where parents would be receiving vouchers and other mechanisms by which to send their children to private, charter, or parochial schools, the focus would be more on outcomes of where students are ending up, where parents would have the option to send their children to the schools producing the best results” former chairman of the Minnesota GOP and now gubernatorial candidate Keith Downey said.
“While obviously there will need to be some form of standardized testing in order for these schools to be eligible for the the vouchers, and high levels of transparency is still a must, parents making the choices between schools is really the scorecard of the schools.”