WORLD’S BEST WORK FORCE
Last week, we started to look at education legislation from last spring which is called the World’s Best Work Force legislation. The education bill, as it was finalized at the end of the legislative session, included some significant changes for schools across the state.
As I noted, 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. I would like to continue our review of the WBWF legislation.
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 World’s Best Workforce legislation clearly identifies five specific goals for education in Minnesota. The goals are:
- 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.
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.” Each school board is able to adopt its own plan and develop specific strategies to accomplish the work within the parameters of clearly defined, locally developed student achievement goals and benchmarks; process to evaluate each student’s progress; 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; evidence-based strategies for improving effective classroom instruction; and an annual budget for implementation and sustainability of district plan.
The World’s Best Work Force legislation includes some changes in how school districts report information back to the community. All school districts, at present, are required to provide an annual Systems Accountability Report. This report, which was at one time known as the PER Report, expects schools to report on progress on academic goals. Each year, the district has been required to set goals for progress and then report in October the work that has been done in the district.
The WBWF legislation modifies this reporting process. School districts will still be required to publish an annual report in the fall. This report is expected to include progress on student achievement and results related to the district’s continual improvement plan.
As part of the reporting process, the school board must hold an annual public meeting. This meeting may be part of a regular school board meeting (much like the Truth in Taxation presentations) or may be an independent meeting focused on the WBWF information.
As part of the information and communications process, each school district is also required to gather feedback from the community in regard to their connections to the schools and on the constituents’ level of satisfaction with the school.
A summary of the report is required to go to the Commissioner of Education.
The WBWF legislation sets expectations for community engagement as well. Clearly, the fact that constituents are to be surveyed periodically about connections and levels of satisfaction with the school means there is an expectation to engage community members.
In addition, the district is required to have an advisory committee. Although the exact nature of this committee is not defined, there are some practical guidelines. The committee is supposed to be involved in the development and review of the district plan. The committee should reflect the diversity of the community and sites.
The committee’s task is to make recommendations to the school board regarding rigorous academic standards, student achievement goals, and student achievement measures.
This committee is not required to be a new committee, but can be part of an existing committee or a district may even reconstitute committees to meet the requirements.
There are already several committees within the ROCORI School District which meet all or portions of these requirements. The Teaching and Learning Committee, the Community Finance Committee and the Keep ROCORI Proud Committee are already part of the district. Each of these committees has some function or responsibility that would help to meet the legislative requirements. We will have some discussion through the spring to help define the district’s community engagement or advisory committee.
As the World’s Best Work Force legislation is being defined and interpreted at the Minnesota Department of Education, there is a strong desire to use the legislation to unify and consolidate work expected within school districts. The Department describes this as a “One Plan Initiative.”
Rather than add more components and requirements to schools, the Department views this as an opportunity to make the development and reporting documents more consistent and similar in nature. Currently, districts must complete a number of independent plans and documents—many of which involve similar details and information. These plans include Integration, Title programming, Testing, Staff Development, Evaluation processes, and several other initiatives. Rather than constructing each of these plans, the Department hopes to move them into a single, common plan.
The Department also explains that this process will result in a new accountability system. “The result of the legislation,” explained Steve Dibb, Assistant Commissioner of Education, “will be a state accountability system that is locally owned, developed with parent and community involvement, and supported by MDE guidance and technical assistance in continuous school improvement planning.”