The future of educational standards is at stake at the Capitol, as legislators attempt to reconcile proposals in the Minnesota House and Senate that would provide increased funding for public K-12 schools while removing graduation testing requirements.
One potential provision still on the table drew sharp criticism from Winona Area Public Schools Superintendent (WAPS) Scott Hannon Thursday. The rule would require school districts to create comprehensive plans meant to shrink the achievement gap between minority and white students and prepare them for college and the workforce. When a district fails to meet planned goals or make progress toward reducing that gap, up to four percent of its funding would be directed to an outside "center of excellence" district — one that has a proven track record in student achievement improvements — that would use the money to help the home district reduce its achievement gap.
Calling it reminiscent of the former federal No Child Left Behind mandate, Hannon blasted the concept. "This is a ludicrous bill that is meaningless; it just shouldn't happen," he said. "We're finally making some progress in student achievement. Administratively, this would be a step backward for us. What is their goal?"
WAPS Finance Officer Dan Pyan called the funding tied to improved student performance "somewhat complicated and somewhat frightening." The pending legislation calls for increased general school funding of between one and two percent, which could mean between $182,000 and $360,000 annually in additional funding for WAPS. Bills in the House and Senate would also provide funding for all-day, every-day kindergarten, which would bring in about $300,000 annually for WAPS, along with funds for early childhood education scholarships.
Graduation assessment requirements for math, reading and writing would be scrapped in favor of new tests that do not carry a minimum, passing score requirement. The House Omnibus Education Bill instead focuses on college and workforce-readiness assessments before a student reaches ninth grade, which are expected to help families plan for students' future. State leaders are also calling for a graduation rate of 100 percent and the elimination of the achievement gap between white and minority students by 2027.