Minnesota unveils new school accountability system

Published: Aug. 30, 2018 at 8:55 PM CDT
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The Minnesota Department of Education has rolled out a new way to measure a school's performance.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the new system gives a fuller picture of a school's needs and achievements.

The Department of Education is moving away from a decades-old system that was focused on test scores alone. Cassellius said the North Star accountability system puts a strong focus on equity.

The new accountability system was developed over the past two years as a way to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the state's World's Best Workforce law.

It focuses on five areas: Academic achievement, academic progress, progress made by students learning English, graduation rates and consistent attendance.

"We're going to be supporting 485 schools; before we only supported 155. Because we're really looking at individual schools now in a very different way. They may just need help with attendance rates... they may just need help with their graduation rates, for instance," Cassellius said.

These 485 schools will get varying degrees of support from the state over the next three years. The state has also identified 47 Title I schools that need the most support—about half of those schools are located in the Twin Cities.

"You have kind of the all-in support, all hands on deck, for schools that have chronically underperformed year to year. We'll be working not only at the school level but also looking at the district level and how is the district supporting those schools," Cassellius said.

The new system also recognizes schools across the state for being top performers; 526 schools are being recognized this year. Cassellius said they will also be reaching out to those schools to find out how they've been able to excel in different areas.

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht responded, "Minnesota students, families and classroom educators have waited many years for a meaningful way to communicate the local challenges they see every day to the Legislature. The new North Star accountability system will give them that voice."

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said, "This work has been a priority for Minneapolis Public Schools since I became Superintendent, and this new system and the data it uses are another tool for us to continue our focus on meeting individual students' needs. It supports the work we've been doing in MPS to look at our data, see what we can learn about why certain students and student groups aren't receiving the same educational experience and outcomes as others, and what steps we can take to change that."