Education Department could rank schools

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Minnesota schools could face new evaluations from the Education Department, with low performers needing to submit a turnaround strategy for improvement.

Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) sponsors HF2180 that establishes measurable areas of progress for the state’s public schools. The House Education Reform Committee approved the bill. It now moves to the House Education Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

The bill provides that the commissioner would rank schools based on student proficiency and growth on assessments; the rate at which student disparities decrease; and graduation statistics. Of schools that receive Title I funds, which aid schools with higher poverty rates, the 5 percent that performed the lowest would need to submit a turnaround strategy for improvement.

Under the bill, possible strategies for low-performing schools would include converting into a charter school; implementing evaluation systems for staff; replacing it with a new school; and transferring students to other schools in the district.

Testifiers questioned whether the bill would nullify the No Child Left Behind waiver the state recently received, which relieves schools from the heavily criticized education requirements of the NCLB Act.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said that she is concerned that the bill “puts back the federal mandate.”

Garofalo responded the bill would not interfere with the waiver.

Jim Bartholomew, executive policy director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, praised the bill for taking action on low-performing schools.

“This creates a structure for how the state will address concerns over those schools whose student performance consistently ranks in the bottom 5 percent,” he said.

Jan Alswager, chief lobbyist for the state’s teachers union, Education Minnesota, acknowledged the need for changes in so-called turnaround scools. However, she criticized the bill’s timeline, saying it moved too quickly. She urged more collaboration between legislators and teachers.