In 2013, the Minnesota legislature lifted test score requirements for high school graduation and replaced them with the "World's Best Workforce" (WBWF). WBWF requires districts to craft plans that include goals to close student achievement gaps, ensure all third grade students are at a third grade reading level, and ready all students for college and careers. If progress is not made toward these goals after three years, districts may face a state intervention in which the commissioner of education prescribes the way that two percent of general funds must be used to help improve education in the district.
While districts across the state were expected to have developed and implemented plans by January 2014, Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) is still working on its draft.
At the WAPS Curriculum Committee meeting on Monday, WAPS director of curriculum Jenny Bushman presented the district’s WBWF plan and asked the committee for feedback.
“It’s a draft,” Bushman said of the plan as committee members scanned the pages. “When I look at this, it is a huge thing. [It] needs more thought and time.”
Bushman and Winona Middle School principal Mark Anderson said WAPS should wait for the results of proficiency tests being conducted now, for which results won't be reported until October 2014, before focusing in on a WBWF plan.
October 2014 is when the Minnesota Department of Education WBWF timeline suggests that districts should submit reports on the results of the first year of the WBWF plan implementation and progress.
“[WBWF plan is currently] more generic, and I anticipate that when it grows within the district, it gets more specific,” Bushman explained of WAPS progress and broad WBWF goals. “We were given a limited time to pull [a plan] together.”
“The five areas [that school districts] have to look into and create goals around are that all children meet school readiness goals, all third grade students achieve at grade level literacy, close the achievement gap among all racial and ethnic groups of students and between students living in poverty and their more privileged peers, all students are ready for college and careers, and that all students graduate from high school,” Minnesota Department of Education spokesman Keith Hovis said.
“[MDE] is asking districts to take a close look at students,” Hovis explained. “[Districts have to] make sure all students are on a path to college and careers, and make sure that every child is prepared to succeed.”
MDE lists the WBWF district plan goals as:
• Clearly defined locally developed student achievement goals and benchmarks.
• [A] process to evaluate each student’s progress toward meeting the state and local academic standards.
• A system to review and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and curriculum.
• Practices that integrate high-quality instruction, rigorous curriculum, instructional technology, and a collaborate professional culture that supports teacher quality, performance and effectiveness.
• Evidence-based strategies for improving effective classroom instruction, an articulated curriculum and use of student achievement results to drive instruction.
• An annual budget for implementation and sustainability of district plan.
While MDE requirements include guidelines, Hovis emphasized that a district’s school board will be creating educational goals and specifications that are unique to the school district. “It’s really a local plan to build accountability that way,” Hovis said of the importance of establishing a plan in-house.
According to the MDE, if districts cannot demonstrate improvements in teaching and learning over three years, they may be required to use up to two percent of basic education revenue per fiscal year to implement targeted strategies and practices to improve and accelerate progress. Hovis explained that while districts will set up their own goals and plans to achieve them, the state still has the ability to step in if the determined goals are not being accomplished.
“[Districts] have to set goals, [and] if they aren’t meeting their goals, there will be issues,” he said.
Sarah Squires contributed to this report.