RELEASE: U.S. Secretary of Education Approves Minnesota’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

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department of education

For Immediate Release

Contact: Josh Collins


January 10, 2018

Previous Announcements

U.S. Secretary of Education Approves Minnesota’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

ROSEVILLE, MN – The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) announced today that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Minnesota’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Minnesota’s plan places equity at its foundation, and outlines the values, goals and strategies—established through two years of public input, at more than 300 public meetings—that will guide the state’s public school system going forward.

“I’m proud of the work our Minnesota educators, stakeholders, and our team at MDE have put into Minnesota’s ESSA plan,” said Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Every student in every school—from pre-K to graduation—deserves an excellent education, and this plan puts equity front and center, giving us a clear blueprint for schools across Minnesota to meet that charge.”

ESSA was signed in December 2015 as the nation’s new pre-K through grade 12 federal education law, replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with the goal of addressing educational disparities. Minnesota’s plan ensures that local school districts will be held accountable for supporting every student in their schools. Instead of looking solely at overall student achievement, schools will be accountable for the achievement of students by race, socio-economic status, status as an English learner, and disability status. Schools will also be required to look at their expulsion and suspension data closely, and integrate strategies to address disparities and improve school attendance rates.

Under Minnesota’s ESSA plan, the state’s award-winning Regional Centers of Excellence will significantly expand their work with schools and districts identified as needing support to improve. The plan calls for identification and varying levels of support for between 300 and 400 schools, an increase from the 85 schools currently working with the Regional Centers under the state’s NCLB waiver. For the first time, high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent for any student group will be identified and receive support from the Regional Centers of Excellence. 

“Our Regional Centers of Excellence will continue working alongside teachers and school leaders, providing top-notch expertise where it’s needed and at the level required to get sustained results,” said Cassellius. “We know every community, school and student is unique, and our varied levels of support directly target resources to maximize effort and provide sound solutions for teachers.”

Schools or districts identified for support through the new accountability system created in Minnesota’s ESSA plan will be notified in the fall of 2018. Minnesota’s ESSA plan lays out a process for how schools will be identified. Schools and districts will receive support according to what they need and specific to their student population. Once identified, schools and districts will undergo a comprehensive needs assessment, then establish a school leadership team to collaborate with our Regional Centers of Excellence to develop an actionable plan of improvement. Recognizing that this work is complex and difficult, the plan includes a system of continuous improvement that involves regular evaluation and feedback loops among all partners.

“This plan was guided by an unwavering commitment to equity and meaningful accountability. It ensures we are providing the right level of support for every student, teacher and school that needs it,” said Cassellius. “It reflects our ongoing commitment to parents, educators and community members as meaningful partners, because we all play an essential role in making sure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.” 

Highlights from Minnesota’s plan

Equity and alignment with state laws

Minnesota’s ESSA plan emphasizes meaningful inclusion of all students in the system, and holds every public school accountable for the outcomes of every student group. This commitment to equity aligns with and leverages existing laws in the state. The accountability system for schools under ESSA will complement the state’s system to support districts under its World’s Best Workforce law, and Minnesota’s plan includes goals designed around the goals of that law. Furthermore, the state’s definition of teacher effectiveness builds on the local systems for teacher evaluation and development, as well as on the state law that requires no student be served for two consecutive years by teachers on improvement plans as a result of those local systems.

Graduation rate goals and disaggregation by student group

Minnesota has set an ambitious goal for our four-year graduation rate. By 2020, 90 percent of Minnesota students will graduate in four years, and no single student group’s graduation rate will be below 85 percent. This goal reflects the state’s strong commitment to equity and ensuring every Minnesota student receives a high school diploma and is bolstered by the state’s plan to identify for support any public high school with a four-year graduation rate below 67 percent overall, or for any student group.

The state’s plan also articulates goals around academic achievement, progress toward English language proficiency, consistent attendance, third-grade reading, and eighth-grade math.

Supporting all schools along the stages

Minnesota’s new approach to identifying schools for support uses a series of stages to prioritize our support for schools. A school identified for low results in any stage will receive some level of support, with the amount of support increasing with the number of stages the school moves through. With equity at the center of our new system, schools are identified for support based on overall performance as well as the results of any student group.

Next Steps

Important parts of the work in implementing the state’s ESSA plan involve ongoing engagement with stakeholders and the community. The department is currently holding meetings around the development of a new public data reporting tool to replace the Minnesota Report Card including improved fiscal transparency, a process for recognizing schools and districts that are consistently high-performing, and the future of the school quality or student success indicator in Minnesota’s accountability system.

For more information about these meetings, and to read more about Minnesota’s ESSA plan, visit the ESSA State Plan page

Download Minnesota’s letter of approval from the U.S. Department of Education.