Updates from MDE: 11-20-2020

department of education

November 20, 2020

Updates in this email:

Executive Order 20-99

On Wednesday evening, in an address to Minnesotans, Governor Walz announced Executive Order 20-99, which outlines steps the state is taking to prevent and contain further spread of COVID-19, including dialing back social activities, in-person dining, sports, and fitness establishments for four weeks beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 20, 2020.

Schools will continue to follow the Safe Learning Plan, but athletics and activities will be paused. During this four-week pause, schools will not be allowed to rent out their gyms, weight rooms and other facilities unless they are being used for activities that are permitted under paragraph 6 of Executive Order 20-99, such as education and child care for children and youth.

Read the full executive order.

December ACT and SAT Update

MDE continues to prioritize the health and safety of Minnesota's students, families and school staff. As we continue to see significant spread of COVID-19 across our state, Education Commissioner Ricker has consulted with Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm and has determined that ACT and SAT testing will not be permitted in school facilities during the month of December. The commissioners will continue monitoring the public health situation to make determinations about ACT and SAT testing in school facilities for future test dates.

Statewide Assessments

Statewide assessments (ACCESS/Alternate ACCESS and MCA/MTAS) are required by both federal and state statute. As explained in a recent letter from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Chief State School Officers (including MDE) regarding statewide assessments, the U.S. Department of Education does not anticipate granting waivers to states this year, as they did in the 2019-20 school year.

Regardless of the learning mode of a district, school or an individual student, districts and schools should prepare and plan to administer all required statewide assessments for the 2020-21 school year. For ACCESS, Alternate ACCESS, MTAS, and many MCA accommodations, the assessments must be administered with the student and the test monitor in the same location. For MCA, including some accommodations, the assessments can be administered with the student and the Test Administrator in the same location or in different locations. Administration and reporting details are being finalized and will be provided during the District Assessment Coordinators (DAC) Test Administration Training and the weekly Assessment Update.

This fall, MDE is conducting action research to accommodate statewide assessments administered remotely in school years beyond 2020-21. The results will be shared as they are available.

Reminder: Use Saliva Test Codes by November 30

Minnesota is proud to offer at-home COVID-19 saliva testing for any person who wants to be tested, with or without symptoms, at no cost. This saliva test is just as accurate as the nasal swab test and is available at no cost for every Minnesotan, whether or not you have insurance. With the COVID-19 positivity rate climbing higher than ever before, expanding access to COVID-19 testing to all communities across the state is critical to keeping Minnesotans informed and safe. More information about this partnership with Vault Medical Services is available Minnesota Department of Health’s website, including information on how to order test.

Based on feedback we have received from educators, schools, child care and staff and in order to provide a seamless transition to this new program at-home testing for all Minnesotans, we are urging all educators who have not yet used their saliva test code issued at the start of the school year to use them by November 30, 2020. If you have already used your saliva test code or you’d like to take an at-home COVID-19 saliva test after November 30, you may order one at Vault: No-Cost COVID Testing For All Minnesotans.

Reminder: Keep the Learning Model Portal Updated

Earlier this week, school leaders received a message from Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller as a reminder to continue updating the Learning Model Portal as schools transition to different learning models. Please refer to the user guide and keep the following notes in mind:

  • When you are reporting learning models, you should not factor in the distance learning option for families, in-person services for special populations, or occasional in-person activities such as tutoring or students coming in to complete hands-on projects. Your reporting should be reflective of the overall learning model within each grade level.
  • If you have already announced that you will be switching models in the future, please input a future learning model date. Instructions for this can be found in the user guide.
  • Temporary changes, such as a 14-day building closure due to confirmed COVID-19 cases, must be reported in the portal.
  • Any shift in learning model should be added as a new learning model. Do not edit your existing model. The Learning Model Portal is intended to be a record of the learning models that were implemented over the course of the year, so it is important that any shift is added as a new learning model.
  • If all of your students are attending in-person learning full-time, but you are implementing hybrid health and safety protocols, this must be entered as “All in-person.”
  • We are seeing many schools incorrectly select the “Combination” models, so please note that those should only be used when there are different learning models being implemented within the same grade level within the same building. This would likely only be needed if you have one classroom in one grade level in a building quarantined due to COVID-19 cases, but the rest of the classrooms in that grade level in the building are still in-person or hybrid learning.

Training Opportunities, Important Dates and Reminders

2019-20 World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) Summary Report and Achievement and Integration (A&I) Summary Report

Districts and charters can now submit their annual WBWF summary report for the 2019-20 school year. The WBWF summary report is in combination with the A&I progress report. Districts that do not participate in the A&I program only need to complete the WBWF section of the form. Summary reports are to be submitted using an online survey form—similar to the reporting method used last year. This online summary report can be found on the WBWF webpage and is due by December 15, 2020.

Youth Voice Service Grant

Minnesota Alliance With Youth has created a coalition with Roseville Area School District and the Minnesota Humanities Center that seeks to establish and expand a movement of youth leading on issues of social and racial justice as well as community engagement.

As part of the 9/11 Day of Service event, the coalition presented a "Call to Action" to the community, while building momentum and engagement towards the Youth in Educational Leadership Summit (YELS) event, held in April, 2021. This call to action includes a toolkit for youth community engagement and an accompanying video series, expanding upon themes of youth organizing, education, having difficult conversations and self care. 

The coalition also presents the Youth Voice Service Grant, which is an opportunity for young people in Minnesota to apply for mini-grants ranging from $50-$350. The Youth Voice Service Grant allows young people throughout Minnesota to showcase their ongoing youth led advocacy and organizing efforts. The awarding of these grants will be determined based upon specified criteria for youth participation in four focus areas: Juvenile Justice, Education Equity, Environmental Justice, Health and Wellness.

For more information, see the Youth Voice Service Grant brochure and application (in Google Docs). Please share this information and opportunity with students in your school communities. 

Reminder: U.S. Senate Youth Program Applications Open

The 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) will be held in an online format for 2021. Washington Week Online will take place March 14–18, 2021, and will be a fully immersive learning experience incorporating the key elements of the program week in an exciting, interactive format. Attendance at Washington Week Online is a requirement of the program. 

  • Completed application packets may be mailed to the Minnesota Department of Education or emailed as attachments. See full mailing address on the application or submit application documents via email to: mde.USSYP@state.mn.us
  • Applications must be postmarked or emailed by Friday, December 4, 2020.

High school principals, counselors and social studies teachers can help us promote this program to students. Please share this information with these staff. The program brochure and application form are available on our program website and may be shared with your students, other educators or anyone who is associated with students who may be interested in the program. Each secondary school may nominate one student for the program. For more information, contact: U.S. Senate Youth Program Coordinator for Minnesota Email: mde.USSYP@state.mn.us 

Strengthening Student and Family Engagement Webinar Series

Even though the first session took place on November 18, there is still time to register for our webinar series designed to support all Minnesota districts in strengthening their community and family engagement approaches. This training series supports districts in creating and maintaining momentum around academic learning through authentic engagement that leads to positive student experiences, increased student attendance, and ultimately, stronger academic outcomes this school year and beyond. Individual session in the series will focus on

  • Building a Shared Vision for Diverse Stakeholder Engagement and Tier One Supports (Session took place on November 18.)
  • Tiered Systematic Engagement
  • Comprehensive Engagement and Removing Barriers
  • Increasing Agency of Stakeholders and Integrating with the Academic Vision
  • Improving Communication Structures
  • Intentional Culture and Diversity—Whose Voices are We Missing?
  • Authentic Collaboration
  • Leveraging and Supporting Staff
  • Long Term and Sustained Authentic Engagement—Planning Ahead

Please forward this opportunity to other district and school leaders.

View the session flyer to find out more about the series, see webinar dates, and review individual session outcomes.

Register for this training opportunity.

For additional questions, please contact Jacqueline Blagsvedt at jacqueline.blagsvedt@state.mn.us.

If you need reasonable accommodations to register or participate in this opportunity, please contact liz.vanleer@tntp.org.