StudentsFirst report card sheds light on Minnesota’s education laws
BY ANN C. KAY – GUEST COLUMNIST
Earlier this month, StudentsFirst released a first-of-its-kind education policy report card on the strength of education laws, regulations and practices in all 50 states. Each state received a letter grade based on how well its current laws and policies serve students and schools, and Minnesota received a “D” overall.
As a former Hopkins School District teacher, my first response was, “Good. This will get some attention.”
The report suggests that our state needs to make improvements to support all student populations served by the public K-12 system, a finding also made by the U.S. Department of Education in a November report citing our low graduation rates for minority students.
These improvements must start with policy reforms, such as the current efforts under way around teacher evaluations and charter school accountability.
As most in my profession know, state lawmakers have already dedicated time and energy to creating a meaningful evaluation system for teachers and principals. Hopefully, those efforts will result in a system that provides accurate feedback to help teachers and principals continue to improve classroom instruction and student achievement, especially for struggling learners.
I believe better evaluations will also lead to the strengthening of other existing policies, such as Q Comp, a state education department program that rewards teachers for outstanding measurable performance. Having taught Q Comp courses myself, I know that when teachers identify and implement what’s effective with their own students, they are better able to communicate what works well to other teachers and schools.
And although Minnesota was the first state to enact charter school laws, the time has come to improve the accountability and efficiency of these public schools and identify the best way to replicate the successful ones.
We can start with a framework that holds charters and the organizations that authorize them accountable for the public resources they’re given. With billions of dollars spent on education annually, the stakes are too high not to know whether our public dollars are being spent wisely.
With that in mind, and as legislators begin to consider Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to change the state’s education funding formula, we must advocate for all students and parents – regardless of their ZIP code – to ensure every Minnesota child receives a quality education.
Ultimately, I believe the StudentsFirst report card can serve as a road map and resource for state policymakers. It underscores for me the importance of making decisions about our schools based on how well they serve our students and teachers, and regardless of your opinion about the messenger, it’s hard to ignore the message: there’s more work for us to do.
So, as this year’s legislative session begins, I humbly call on our lawmakers to come together in the interest of every child for action around these key education reforms. As Minnesotans, we should expect no less.
For more information about StudentsFirst’s Minnesota report card, including the methodology used to create it, please visit the report card web site at reportcard.studentsfirst.org.
Kay is a former Hopkins School District teacher.