According to Larry Pogemiller, the Commissioner of the Office of Higher Education, “The five chosen programs all demonstrate innovative and promising teacher preparation methods that can help Minnesota schools meet the challenge of finding the teachers they need.”
The grant program was created during the 2017 legislative session and allocated $750,000 for new alternative preparation programs that intended to do one or more of the following:
Fill Minnesota’s teacher shortage in licensure areas that the commissioner has identified.
Recruit, select, and train teachers who reflect the racial or ethnic diversity of the students in Minnesota.
Establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs.
Importantly, only a “school district, charter school, or nonprofit” were eligible for the grant monies, meaning that institutions of higher education were not. Additionally, in order to be eligible, programs must also have been in operation for three continuous years in Minnesota or any other state, and are working to fill the state’s teacher shortage areas. Finally, the commissioner of Higher Education must give preference to programs that are based in Minnesota.
This post will provide a description of an alternative teacher preparation program, as well as a description of the programs for each of the grant recipients.
What is an Alternative Teacher Preparation Program?
In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that created the opportunity for alternative teacher preparation programs to be created. According to a 2016 Office of the Legislative Auditor report, school district, charter schools, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to establish an alternative program by partnering with a college or university that had an alternative teacher preparation program. Additionally, school districts and charter schools are also able to establish an alternative program by forming a partnership with certain nonprofit organizations, but only after they had consulted with a college or university with a teacher preparation program.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) kicked off their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) public comment regional meetings at the Wilder Foundation in Saint Paul. Over 60 individuals gathered to hear Commissioner Cassellius and Michael Diedrich, MDE’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act Policy Specialist, share the state’s ESSA accountability plan, answer questions, and receive public input.
Change #1: From Proficiency Index Rate to Achievement Rates
Commissioner Cassellius indicated that one of the changes MDE has made is that they will use achievement rates instead of a proficiency index rate for the academic achievement indicator.
In the initial version of the plan, which used a proficiency index rate, schools were awarded 1.0 point for every student that either “meets standards” or “exceeds standards” and 0.5 points for every student that “partially meets standards” on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). However, in the updated plan, schools will not be awarded any points for students who “partially meets standards.” Rather, schools will only be awarded 1.0 points for every student who either “meets standards” or “exceeds standards.”
According to Commissioner Cassellius, MDE decided to make this change because legislators and stakeholder groups had indicated that the previous system was “confusing.” However, public commentary has indicated that there is some dissatisfaction with that decision.
Change #2: Students Who Opt-Out of MCAs Will Not Be Described As Failing to Meet Standards
The draft state accountability plan, which MDE released on July 17th, indicated that students who opted out of the state’s MCAs would “functionally count the same as students at the ‘does not meet standards’ achievement level.” However, the state’s updated plan indicates that “Students who do not participate in the test will be identified in state records and in communications with families as not participating; they will not be described as failing to meet standards.”
With that said, students who opt-out or do not participate in the MCAs will still be included in the denominator used to calculate the school’s academic achievement rate and they will not be awarded any points.
Public Comments Indicates that Concerns Remain
So far, much of the public feedback submitted on the plan has lauded MDE’s focus on equity, inclusion of 7-year high school graduation rates, and the creation of a manual that standardizes the identification, entrance, and exit decisions for English language learners. However, some concerns remain.
One concern is the exclusion of some form of a summative rating. A ninth grade teacher at Hiawatha Collegiate High School urged MDE to include a summative rating because the “citizens of Minnesota deserve a clear, direct, and transparent system to see where we are and how we will grow.”
Another concern is the use of a funnel approach to identify schools for comprehensive support. A second grade teacher from Global Academy indicated his support for a weighted point system and provided an example as explanation, “Under the funnel system, a school could be in the 1st percentile of academic achievement, advance to the next level of the funnel, happen to be in the 26th percentile for academic progress and be deemed not in need of comprehensive support.”
What’s Next for Minnesota’s ESSA Plan?
MDE has to submit the state accountability plan to US Department of Education (USDE) on September 18, 2017. However, before MDE submits the plan they must also do the following:
Submit the plan to Governor Dayton for his signature. However, if Governor Dayton has not signed the plan within 30 days of delivery, MDE can submit the plan to USDE without it.
Submit the plan to legislature’s education policy and finance committees. Even though this is required by the state’s 2017 Education Omnibus Bill, it is more of a courtesy as the committees do not need to approve the plan in order for MDE to submit it to USDE.
MDE will also host a series of additional public commentary meetings from 6:00-7:30 PM at the following locations:
Mankato: Thursday, August 17th at West High School Auditorium
Moorhead: Monday, August 21 at Moorhead High School Auditorium
Sartell: Tuesday, August 22 at Resource Training and Education
Duluth: Wednesday, August 23 at Denfield High School Cafeteria
These meetings are open to the public and you can register to attend one of them here. If you are unable to attend one of the public commentary meetings, the state’s current accountability plan is also published to the MDE website and is available for public comment until August 31st.
Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on the development of Minnesota’s ESSA state accountability plan.
Our blog post last week introduced the topic of “charter-district collaboration”, and reported on the status of Minneapolis’ District-Charter Collaboration Compact, as well as the Minneapolis Public Schools and Hiawatha Academies Collaboration Agreement.
In a January 2017 report, the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) wrote about the status of collaboration in the 23 cities that have signed a District-Charter Collaboration Compact. CRPE determined that five cities—Boston, Chicago, Denver, Central Falls, and New Orleans—have charter and district schools working together in a robust manner such that “systemic issues of equity for students and access to resources are being addressed.”
Below are summaries of the benefits that the aforementioned cities’ districts and charters have experienced from the Compacts, as well as key takeaways for Minneapolis and other Minnesota cities.
In September 2011, Boston’s mayor, 16 charter school organizations, and Boston Public Schools (BPS) signed their District-Charter Collaborative Compact, with the Catholic Archdiocese joining later on. According to CRPE, “Boston’s Compact is one of the strongest and most successful collaboration efforts in the country.” Some of the benefits that have resulted from the collaboration are:
School partnerships between district, charter, and Catholic schools in order to identify and share classroom level strategies
Shared use of data to locate and learn from classrooms and schools where students are thriving academically
Nationally recognized, researched based professional development for teachers from all three sectors for English language learners
Coordinated release times across sectors helped BPS save roughly $1 million per year in transportation costs
Two charter organizations (three schools) received leases for vacant buildings
The Compact was renewed in the fall of 2015 with new personnel dedicated to continuing the collaborative work between the three sectors. In September of 2015, Mayor Walsh called upon the Compact to help improve Boston’s enrollment process so that it would be “simple, unified, and equitable for all public schools.”
Additionally, in April 2017, the Boston Compact announced one of their new initiatives, the Boston Educators Collaborative. Through the Collaborative, Boston teachers are able to attend free classes that cover a range of topics from mathematical thinking to the impact of culture in the classroom.
Chicago’s District-Charter Collaborative Compact was signed in November 2011 by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Illinois State Charter School Commission (INCS). Over the course of six years, across three CPS superintendents, and with constant help from INCS, Chicago has accomplished substantial achievements for both district and charter schools. Some of the accomplishments include:
Joint lobbying by both district and charter schools produced increases in funding for all public schools
A cross-sector committee designed the School Quality Rating Policy, which is a common tool that provides parents with comparisons of schools across multiple metrics
District and charter leaders are regularly brought together for professional development, with feedback on the program being very positive
Charter schools saw a rise in facility funds from the district
Denver signed their District-Charter Collaborative Compact in December 2010 and, in 2012, they were awarded $4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue and build on their work. Since then, Denver has had several wins, including:
Implementing a common enrollment system
Creating a unified accountability system
Correcting an inequitable distribution of levy dollars across district and charter schools
Cross-sector professional development specifically targeted to better serve special education students and English Language Learners
Denver also has a District-Charter Collaborative Council that discusses and develops policy recommendations to improve the way that the district and charter schools collaborate and work together.
In August 2011, Central Falls signed their District-Charter Collaborative Compact. The Compact had been largely pushed by Central Falls’ superintendent, Dr. Frances Gallo, and received support from the school board. Early in the Compact the focus was on joint professional development, sharing a reading curriculum and bilingual language knowledge, cross-sector teacher fellowships, combined teacher recruitment, and facilities.
Even though Gallo retired in 2015, Central Falls School District and charter school leaders have continued to collaborate. According to their website, the Compact is collaboratively working on strategies around human capital and STEAM learning strategies, special education, and parent engagement.
While New Orleans’ citywide portfolio model is very different from the educational landscape in Minneapolis and other Minnesota cities, there are still lessons that can be learned from their June 2012 Charter-District Collaboration Compact. For example, the initial Compact agreement helped launch the OneApp common enrollment system and produced an “equity report”, which includes information regarding student achievement, growth, and demographic data for each school in New Orleans. They also developed a new, equitable system for distributing per-pupil funding to schools for their students with special needs.
Additionally, New Orleans’ district and charter leaders collaborated to create a set of universal school discipline standards that were adopted by all of the city’s public schools. Further, all of the city’s public schools implemented the Louisiana Recovery School District’s centralized school expulsion system, which has ensured consistent behavioral expectations across schools and has resulted in a decrease in expulsion rates.
Even though Minneapolis’ District-Charter Collaboration Compact is currently inactive, there is no reason why they, or other Minneapolis cities, cannot take advantage of the benefits that come from charter-district collaborative relationships. Some of the key takeaways from the five cities’ Compacts are that collaboration between the two sectors can result in:
Increased funding for all public schools
Sharing of best practices and professional development, particularly with regard to students who are ELL or have special needs
Unified data, accountability, and enrollment systems
Increased charter access to facilities and facility funding
In their report, CRPE asserted that for a rising number of school districts, “cooperative action between districts and charter schools is a necessity, not a nicety.” With over 21 percent of Minneapolis students, 23 percent of St. Paul students, and 15 percent of Duluth students attending charter schools, it’s time for the two sectors to set aside their differences and develop collaborative relationships for the benefit of students, schools, families, and communities.
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Yesterday, a twelve-member task force, convened by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), released a report on “Quality Education.” The task force was formed in December 2016 after the NAACP’s October 2016 call for a national moratorium on expanding charter schools until a set of conditions were met.
The charge of the task force was to bring forward “practical recommendations that respond to the urgency of this resolution and the inequities undermining public education.” In order to fulfill their charge, from December 2016 to April 2017, the task force held public hearings in seven cities—New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans, and New York.
The report acknowledged that, from testimonials at the public hearings, they found some positive aspects of charter schools. However, the report ultimately concluded that “even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in communities that serve all children.”
Criticism of Public Hearings
According to NAACP task report report, the “hearing format [for the public meetings] ensured testimony” from all of the following stakeholders: educators, administrators, school policy experts, charter school leaders, parents, advocates, students, and community leaders. However, some have questioned the authenticity and fairness of these meetings, claiming that they did not include groups and individuals who were charter supporters.
For example, in Tennessee, members of Memphis Lift, a parent-activist organization, voiced disapproval when they were only allowed 12 minutes at the end of a four-hour meeting. Additionally, in Orlando, Minnesota education activist Rashad Anthony Turner was ushered out of the meeting by police after he interrupted a speech by Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President, because opponents of the moratorium were kept waiting.
Task Force Provides Five Recommendations Based on Public Hearings
According to the report, the testimonials illuminated the “perceived” benefits and problems with charter schools. Using those testimonials, the task force created five recommendations, summarized below, that would improve the quality of charter schools.
Recommendation #1: Provide more equitable and adequate funding for schools serving students of color. The task force argued that education funding has been “inadequate and unequal for students of color for hundreds of years.” In order to remedy the problem, the task force recommended that states should implement weighted student formula systems and model them after the systems that Massachusetts and California have pursued. They also recommended that the federal government should “fully enforce” the funding equity provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Recommendation #2: Invest productively in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity and achievement gaps. In order to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, the task force recommends that federal, state, and local policies need to “sufficiently” invest in three things: creating incentives to attract and retain teachers, evolving instruction to be more challenging and inclusive, and providing more wraparound services for students such as health and mental services.
Recommendation #3: Develop and enforce robust charter school accountability measures. There were five parts within this recommendation. They are as follows:
Create and enforce a rigorous chartering authorizing and renewal process. The task force recommends that states should only allow districts to serve as authorizers. This is significant since, of the 44 states that allow charter schools, only four—Wyoming, Virginia, Iowa, and Kansas—have district-only charter authorization.
Create and enforce a common accountability system.
Monitor and require charter schools to admit and retain all students. This recommendation calls for open enrollment procedures, and asserts that charter schools should not be allowed to counsel out, push out, or expel students that they “perceive as academically or behaviorally struggling, or whose parents cannot maintain participation requirements or monetary fees.”
Create and monitor transparent disciplinary guidelines that meet students’ ongoing learning needs and prevent push out. The report recommends that charter schools should be required to follow the “same state regulations regarding discipline as public schools,” and use restorative justice practices.
Require charter schools to hire certified teachers. Many states allow charter schools to hire uncertified teachers at higher rates than traditional public schools, however Minnesota is not one of them.
Recommendation #4: Require fiscal transparency and equity. The task force recommends that all charter schools be held to the “same level of fiscal transparency and scrutiny as other public schools.”
Recommendation #5: Eliminate for-profit charter schools. This recommendation not only states that all for-profit charter schools should be eliminated, but that all for-profit management companies that run nonprofit charter schools should be eliminated as well. Approximately 13 percent of U.S. charter schools are run by for-profit companies. Additionally, at least 15 states allow virtual schools, with many of them operated by for-profit organizations.
Report Elicits Scrutiny from Education Advocates
In response to the NAACP report, Nina Rees, CEO and President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), issued a statement where she indicated that NAPCS was glad to see the NAACP recognize the value of charter schools and agreed with them that “whoever oversees a public school should take that responsibility seriously, have the highest expectations, and hold educators in the school accountable” for educating students.
However, Rees also asserted that the NAACP’s policy resolution and report failed to “acknowledge that Black parents are demanding more and better public-school options,” citing a nationally representative survey which found that found 82 percent of Black parents favored allowing parents to choose their child’s public school.
She also cited a 2015 CREDO Urban Charter Schools Report, which found that Black public charter school students gained 36 days of learning in math and 26 in reading over their non-charter school peers.
Chris Stewart, based in Minnesota and former director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, asserted that “the NAACP has lost its way,” claiming that they have become an “unwitting tool of teacher unions” due to the union’s significant contributions to the NAACP over the years. He also claimed that the unions are “threatened by the growth and success of non-unionized charter schools.”
District-Charter Collaboration: Hope in a Time of Political Tension
The growing and contentious disagreements between education organizations and advocates regarding the merits of charter versus traditional district schools are not new and will likely continue to dominate the news cycle.
However, in recent years, a growing number of districts and charter schools have put aside their political differences and worked together in order to do what’s best for students. Our next two blog posts will examine the cities where some of those collaborative relationships are taking place, as well as provide history on district-charter collaboration in Minnesota.
On July 4th, the vast majority of the 7,000 delegates from the National Education Association (NEA) voted to adopt a new charter school policy statement. The new statement is an overhaul of NEA’s former charter school policy statement that they had adopted in 2001.
Context for Charters Nationally and in Minnesota
A lot has changed since 2001, when chartering was just ten years old and the national enrollment was only 571,000 students. Since then, charter school enrollment has increased dramatically. Today, more than 3 million students are enrolled in charter schools across the country, which comprises 6.1 percent of national public school enrollment.
In Minnesota, even though charter school enrollment has grown by 36 percent in the past five years, it still accounts for just 6 percent of the state’s public school enrollment. According to Eugene Piccolo, executive director for the Minnesota Association of Charter schools, “We’ll see probably steady, slow growth” for charter school enrollment and expansion.
NEA Provides Criteria that “Charters Must Meet”
NEA President, Lily Eskelen Garcia, said that, “This policy draws a clear line between charters that serve to improve public education and those that do not.” Specifically, NEA’s new policy statement lays out three criteria that charter schools must meet in order to provide students with “the support and learning environments they deserve.”
Criterion #1: Charter schools must be authorized and held accountable by public school districts. Specifically, the statement asserts that charter schools only “serve students and the public interest when they are authorized and held accountable by the same democratically accountable local entity [school board] that authorizes other alternative school models in a public school district such as magnet, community, educator-led.”
Criterion #2: The charter school must demonstrate that it is necessary to meet the needs of the students in the district, and they must meet those needs in a manner that improves the local public school system. Additionally, charter school may only be authorized or expanded only after the public school district has “assessed the impact of the proposed charter school on local public school resources, programs and services.”
Criterion #3: The charter school must comply with the same basic safeguards as other public schools, which includes open meetings and public records law, prohibitions against for-profit operations, and certification requirements, among other things.
The policy statement contends that if these criterion are not met then no charter school should be authorized, and that NEA would support state and local moratoriums on “further charter authorizations in the school district.”
In addition to the three criteria, the policy statement asserted that “fully virtual or online” charter schools should be not authorizer at all because they “cannot, by their nature, provide students with a well-rounded, complete educational experience.”
NAPCS, NACSA Respond to NEA Policy Statement
On July 5th, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) issued a response to NEA’s statement. The response provided clarifications to some of the assertions that NEA had made. In response to NEA’s claim that charters are largely held “unaccountable” and are for-profit, NAPCS wrote, “Eighty-five percent of charter schools are either independently run or part of a non-profit network, but no matter their structure, all charter schools are public schools and all are held accountable to their authorizers and the families they serve.”
Further, the NAPCS noted several achievements in the charter sector over the past year, including that six of the ten best high schools in America, as ranked by U.S. News, were charter schools and that the National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, is a Massachusetts charter school teacher.
Greg Richmond, President and CEO for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), asserted that NEA’s policy statement seems to indicate that “they are not against charter schools as long as they operate just like district schools,” and have union contracts and school board politics. Richmond asked, so then “What’s the point?”
He also said the statement missed some of the “nuance in the sector”. He noted that some charters are far more transparent than others due to state and local rules, but also indicated that virtual or online charters have consistently yielded poor results for students. He admitted that, “there is work to be done, but that won’t happen by making charter schools run exactly like district schools.”