When unfunded mandates come from the state, oftentimes local units of government are left scrambling when it comes to figuring out how they should be implemented.
Thankfully, with the “World’s Best Workforce” legislation that was initiated by the Legislature last session, North Branch Area Public Schools is ahead of the curve and likely won’t have to make big changes to what is being done to educate students in the district.
“It’s all about meeting goals: making sure all kids are able to achieve grade-level literacy by third grade; closing the academic achievement gap among racial and ethnic groups, among students that are living in poverty and not living in poverty, students who are special education and not special education; and it’s about having all students graduate from high school and having all students attain college and career preparedness,” NBAPS Superintendent Deb Henton said at the Feb. 13 School Board meeting.
Henton said districts across the state aren’t going to make goals simply for the case of making them; they’ll be measured by the Minnesota Department of Education.
She explained MDE will use the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, the results of which are called the Nation’s Report Card, to assess whether or not districts are meeting their educational goals.
“It’s a test given to sample groups of students every two years in grades four through eight,” Henton said. “They’re measured on reading and math every two years, but there are also many other tests that are typical, like for social studies and civics and so on. We’re going to have our students, a sample group, given this test, and then we’re going to be measured on how well they’re doing.”
Henton, Sunrise River School Principal Lori Zimmerman, High School Principal Coleman McDonough and Director of Curriculum David Treichel said the programs and initiatives the district is already doing fall closely in line with the World’s Best Workforce legislation.
Even though the district’s goals and the state’s goals seem to mirror each other in numerous areas, the state is still requiring districts to put together plans about how they plan to address academic achievement.
“The Department of Education has been very honest with us and said they would not look at this plan that we develop,” Henton said. “The only thing we’re going to look at is this one-page (summary) report, but there’s a lot riding on that one-page report — if we’re not making progress, they can withhold 2 percent of some funding.”
School Board Member Randy Westby wanted to know if the World’s Best Workforce initiative would be replacing the school’s staff development programs.
Henton said she hasn’t heard anything about taking the place of the district’s staff development.
She added that she would keep the School Board posted on World’s Best Workforce, as it is in its beginning stages and the state hasn’t released all of the information about it yet.
“Right now, all I have to share with you is a sketch, a shell, and that’s what we’ve been given,” she said to the board.