WORLD’S BEST WORK FORCE
As we returned from the Thanksgiving break, I was scheduled to attend a presentation by the Minnesota Department of Education on the topic of the World’s Best Work Force. The session was based on legislation adopted last spring at the state capitol. The education bill, as it was finalized at the end of the legislative session, included some significant changes for schools across the state.
It has taken the Department of Education quite a bit of time to sort out the details of the legislation and to begin to share the effects of the new law. The session on Monday was part of the Department’s informational process to help schools understand the new law. I would also like to take a little bit of time to share some of the information.
As the Minnesota legislature considered funding issues for public schools last spring, there was considerable debate about the educational progress being made in the state. Although the state typically performs well, there are concerns about what is known as the “achievement gap”, sustaining high levels of performance for all students, and ensuring accountability within our schools.
The legislation was introduced and approved as an effort to ensure that Minnesota schools produce high quality students who are able to function in work settings at the highest possible levels. The phrase, which has become the label for the legislation, was to ensure that Minnesota produced the “world’s best work force.”
The overview to the legislation on the Minnesota Department of Education’s information explains the following. “Minnesota schools strive to provide the best educational opportunities for all children. Providing an education to Minnesota youth that leads to creating the world’s best workforce is a goal that must be addressed early on in every child’s life. Students are more likely to reach this goal if they are ready for school upon entering kindergarten; achieve grade level literacy by grade three; graduate from high school and attain career and college readiness.
“In order to create the world’s best workforce, it is imperative that academic achievement gaps are closed among all racial and ethnic groups of students and between students living in poverty and not living in poverty as well as for English language learners and non-English language learners and for students who receive or do not receive special education.”
GOALS OF THE LEGISLATION
The World’s Best Workforce legislation clearly identifies five specific goals for education in Minnesota. It sets high standards for the schools across the state to strive to meet.
The five goals include:
- Have all students meet school readiness goals.
- Have all third grade students achieve grade-level literacy.
- Close the academic achievement gap among all racial and ethnic groups of students and between students living in poverty and their more privileged peers as well as students receiving special education services and those that are not.
- Have all students graduate from high school.
- Have all students attain college and career preparedness.
There is very intentional and heavy emphasis, in the goals, on the word, “all.” The objectives are for all students in the state of Minnesota. Look at the goals again—each goal strategically uses the word “all.” It is not acceptable, to have the world’s best workforce, to ensure a quality education for some or most students—the goal must be all students.
Within the goals, the expectation has been set that, by 2025, all students in Minnesota will be prepared so they may graduate from high school. As they graduate, all students should be prepared for college or careers. Having all students graduate, prepared for college and careers, would ensure the world’s best workforce.
REQUIREMENTS OF THE SCHOOL BOARD
Each school board in the state, according to the Department of Education, is required to adopt a plan to “support and improve teaching and learning that is aligned to the World’s Best Work Force.” Although each school board is able to adopt its own plan and develop specific strategies to accomplish the work.
The parameters each school district must meet include:
- Clearly defined locally developed student achievement goals and benchmarks.
- 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 collaborative 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, and
- An annual budget for implementation and sustainability of district plan.
There are a number of components the Department of Education recommends for inclusion as well, but those components are to be determined at the local level.
The World’s Best Workforce legislation was adopted by the legislature last spring. Because of the many expectations and elements of the legislation, some of the details are still being interpreted and determined within the Department of Education. However, it is clear that we need to become familiar with the phrase, “World’s Best Workforce,” and that we work to understand the law.
Although some of the details are still being interpreted, we do know the overall purpose of the legislation and the foundational goals of the law. We also know some of the expectations placed on local school boards. Next week, I will continue the look at this new legislation by introducing some of the pieces still being interpreted. These include reporting processes, efforts at community engagement, and other expectations of the legislation.
For now, we need to understand that WBWF, at least in Minnesota, refers to the education law expecting us to develop the World’s Best Workforce!