Updates from MDE: 9-29-23

department of education

September 29, 2023

Updates in this email:

Survey for Computer Science Education in Grades K – 8

MDE is convening a Computer Science Education Working Group as part of the Computer Science Education Advancement Program. The working group will develop a state strategic plan for a statewide computer science education program. The strategic plan must include a summary of the current state landscape for computer science in grades K–12, including the diversity of students taking these courses. Through the Minnesota Common Course Catalog, we can access data about computer science education in grades 9–12. We’ve put together a survey to gather information about computer science education in grades K–8.

The survey will be open until Oct. 27. Please contact mde.academic-standards@state.mn.us if you need support completing the survey or have any questions.

Guidance on Providing Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Services until Age 22

The Minnesota Department of Education's Division of Special Education and General Counsel have prepared guidance documents regarding recent changes in law. View Providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during Staff Shortages and Q & A: Special Instruction and Services for Children with Disabilities Continues until Age 22.

The Providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during Staff Shortages document is intended to assist school districts, charter schools and parents/guardians in making equitable and individualized determinations of appropriate special education and related services for students with disabilities and quality early intervention services for infants, toddlers and their families when facing shortages of qualified special education teachers, related service providers, paraprofessionals and other essential staff.

The Q & A: Special Instruction and Services for Children with Disabilities Continues until Age 22 document provides technical assistance to parents, school districts and charter schools regarding the changes to age eligibility for children with disabilities. Now, in Minnesota, the provision of special instruction and services (a free appropriate public education) to children with disabilities continues until they reach age 22.

Increased Need for Educator and Community Members During Transition to MCA-IV Series

The primary purpose of standards-based accountability assessments is to measure student learning of the Minnesota Academic Standards. As academic standards are revised, a new series of assessments, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments—Series IV (MCA-IV) and Alternate Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (Alt MCA), must be developed to align with the revised standards.

As part of the transition to a new assessment series, MDE reviews current passages and test questions for alignment with the revised standards while also beginning to develop new passages and questions. The new development is brought to educators and community members for feedback through annual MCA and Alternate MCA Review Committees.

In addition, a new series of assessments also creates several one-time opportunities needing educators and community members to come together and provide input on how the revised standards will be assessed:

  • Test Specifications Committees
  • Achievement Level Descriptor Work Groups
  • Alignment Study Committees
  • Standard Setting Committees

With these one-time committees for the Science, Reading and Math MCA-IV and Alternate MCA series, there is an increased need for more educators and community members from around the state to serve on these committees and work groups. Their participation and feedback help MDE create statewide assessments that reflect the rich diversity and experiences of all Minnesota students and are relevant for all student demographics and learning contexts. Committees representative of our student population are essential to the test development process.

Please encourage the following individuals in your districts to participate and collaborate with educators and peers across the state through these assessment committees:

  • Math, English language arts and science classroom educators
  • English learner educators
  • Special education teachers
  • Community members

To participate, interested individual submit their name and experience to the MCA and Alternate MCA Review Committee Database. The database is then used to send invitations for each opportunity directly to eligible educators and community members based on the need for each committee or meeting.

Invitations for the coming committee cycle (Summer 2024) will begin going out in winter.

The New Scholars of Distinction Program: Intent to Apply Open on Oct. 1

The Scholars of Distinction program recognizes the academic and intellectual accomplishments of Minnesota students that happen both in school and out of school. This program celebrates the collaboration among students, educators, and family and community members, promoting ongoing inquiry and the quest for new learning and understanding of the world around us. The new and improved program has a streamlined application process and adds new areas for student recognition. Students may now earn recognition in computer science, cultural studies, environmental leadership, mathematics, science, social studies and STEM. Participants may be enrolled in grades 11–12 at a public or private school, a Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program or homeschooled.

All applicants must complete the Intent to Apply form to enter the program between Oct. 1 and  Nov. 1, 2023. Projects are due on or before Feb. 1, 2024. Find the Intent to Apply form link, specific criteria and other important information on the Scholars of Distinction Award page: Scholars of Distinction (mn.gov)

FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test for Oct. 4, 2023

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The national test will consist of two portions and is scheduled to begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. CT. The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all cell phones, so please expect all faculty and student mobile devices to be alerted at this time. For more information, visit the FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test for Oct. 4, 2023 webpage.

Timeline Extended for the Minnesota Youth Water Safety Grant – FY 2024 and 2025

The timeline for the Minnesota Youth Water Safety grant posted on Sept. 6, 2023, has been extended from June 30, 2024, to June 30, 2025. The due date for the grant application has also been extended from Oct. 6 to Oct. 20. This grant is available to Minnesota nonprofit organizations and city and county parks and recreation programs providing swimming lessons to youth. These state funds are available primarily to provide low-income and at-risk children with scholarships for swimming lessons based on nationally recognized water safety curricula. Up to 15% of the grant funds may also be used to hire water safety instructors or lifeguards or to train water safety instructors or lifeguards in nationally recognized water safety practices and instruction. The total funding available is $250,000. The minimum award is $10,000, and the maximum award is $24,000 over the grant period. Application materials for the Minnesota Youth Water Safety Grant can be found on the Minnesota Department of Education Grants Page. Contact Grants Specialist Coordinator Bette Benson at Bette.Benson@state.mn.us with any grant questions.

Reminder: Mandating Reporting, Non-Exclusionary Discipline, and HEARTS Training – November 9, 2023

Reminder: School Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Plan Training

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is offering school IAQ plan trainings in fall 2023, in-person statewide and a webinar. This training will discuss requirements and best practices for school IAQ. School staff, service providers, health officials. and others are welcome to attend. The training is free. Registration is required. See MDH School IAQ Plan Training for details and registration.

The IAQ training relates to requirements for school’s Health and Safety Management Programs under Long-Term Facilities Maintenance. If you have questions, please contact Sarah C. Miller, 651-582-8370.

Reminder: We Need Your Input to Shape our Federal Technical Assistance Priorities!

Assistant Commissioner Bobbie Burnham has been appointed as Chairperson of the Midwest Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) for the U.S. Department of Education, providing input on federal technical assistance priorities.

The Secretary has established RACs, one for each region served by the Regional Educational Laboratories, to collect information on the educational needs of each region and how to address them through technical assistance activities provided by comprehensive centers described in section 203 of the Educational Technical Assistance Act (ETAA).

The RACs will seek input regarding the need for the technical assistance activities described in section 203 of the ETAA and how to address those needs. The goal is to solicit the views and needs of schools, including public charter schools, educators, parents, teachers, administrators, members of the regional educational laboratory governing board, LEAs, librarians, businesses, SEAs and other customers, such as adult education programs within the region regarding the need for the activities described in 20 U.S.C. sections 9564 and 9602 and how to address those needs.

The Midwest RAC will be reviewing public comments, data and resources as part of a needs-sensing process, and we want to hear from you!

We encourage you to submit public comments to the advisory committees via the RAC Public Comment form and to share this information with colleagues within your networks and communities.

Reminder: New Active Transportation Safety Training Requirement

The 2023 Active Transportation Safety Training requirement is effective August 1. All students in public schools must receive age-appropriate education related to safe walking and bicycling during the first few weeks of school. This legislation is similar to the law that requires students to receive bus safety education at the beginning of each school year. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is providing all the resources necessary for schools to be able to meet this new requirement. Visit the Safe Routes to School webpage for more information.

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