Session Snapshot: Testing, teacher shortage, property taxes and more

Session SnapshotSessionSnapshot2016

Week 2 — March 14-18

 

A GLANCE AT THE WEEK

Week 2 is here and gone — things at the Capitol are definitely fast and furious. Please see a synopsis of the week below by topic.

Testing and Assessment

Many of the week’s committee meetings in both bodies looked at testing and assessments. One bill pushed the Commissioner of Education to have the authority to waive requirements for Innovation Zone schools. Particularly in this case, for Innovation Zone schools to utilize the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test rather than the state-approved Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA).

MSBA supports this effort. Denise Dittrich (MSBA’s Associate Director of Government Relations) testified in favor of the bill, citing a resolution passed by the 2015 MSBA Delegate Assembly.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee also heard testimony from teachers and a parent about the data derived from MCAs and the need to get “real,” meaningful data in a timely manner. There is also concern from educators about the complexities of the test and how to best address questions students have during the test or errors within the test when the teachers are “threatened” with punishment for any type of assistance.

Last year, thousands of students had their MCAs delayed — twice — after they could not log into the system. Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, wants lawmakers to make changes to prevent future problems. The union supports a package of policy changes that would make standardized tests in Minnesota more transparent, trustworthy and useful as tools for teaching.

Test data, specifically the disaggregation of data, was brought forth in an effort to “count all kids.” Current racial and ethnic data categories leave out populations entirely or leave questions as to which box to check. Josh Crosson from MinnCAN used himself as an example — he is half-black, half-Pilipino. He said he is able to check “Black” or “Asian Pacific/Islander” or “Other.” His example helped portray the difficulty in obtaining accurate data. There is concern that some groups are so small that the participants might actually be easily identified. A fiscal note will be forthcoming and the bill was laid over.

Once again the issue of ACT vs. MCA was raised. With a desire to reduce tests and testing time from the majority of all parties involved, “Should the MCA be replaced with a college entrance exam?” was at issue. It was argued that the ACT can measure achievement and grade level.

MSBA Response: In all of these testing bills, it is imperative to point out that rulemaking and regulations surrounding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is in process right now and will be for the next year or so. We are reluctant to promote any testing changes until we see the federal regulations. Also, you may weigh in on this topic and others as the Commissioner of Education has scheduled topical listening sessions on the implementation of ESSA. School boards members should attend and provide their input.

Please see the accompanying chart or visit http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/MDE-ESSA-MeetingSchedule.pdf for topics and schedule.

MDE-ESSA-Schedule-2016

All meetings will be held in Conference Center B (in Room 15 or Room 16) at the Department of Education office in Roseville. Visit https://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Welcome/Direc/index.html for directions.


 

Teacher Shortage

A Hopkins Career & Technology Education (CTE) instructor spoke to the dire need for CTE teachers across the state and his support of establishing a CTE workgroup. In his district there are 14 current CTE teachers and seven will be retiring this year. The Minnesota Association of Career & Technical Administrators (MACTA) testified there are 100 CTE instructors in 29 school districts. Of those teachers, 25 are on variances or special permissions — and six are teaching on a community expert special permission. These teachers are experts in the construction area but do not hold a four-year degree. The Hopkins instructor said there are three main concerns: (1) a severe lack of teacher education programs for CTE, (2) licensure requirements include a four-year degree and a portfolio, and (3) no reciprocity to recruit CTE teachers from other states.

The Teacher Shortage Act bill, initiated by MSBA, will be heard in the Senate Education Committee next Tuesday morning. Watch this blog next week for more information.

MSBA’s Response: MSBA supports this initiative and recognizes the dire need for CTE teachers.


 

Property Taxes

The House Property Tax and Local Government Division Committee heard bills addressing the plight of agricultural land and the property-tax burden for farmers. Farmers from Clay County testified to the inequities of property taxes to income, stating that an increase in property value does not mean increased income. One farmer pays more property taxes than a local Target store. Bottom line for farmers: the dynamics have changed over the years whereas there was much more farming years ago, today it represents about 2 percent.

Committee chair Rep. Steve Drazkowski stated there would be a “fair tax bill” coming out of this session and a conference committee will be meeting.

MSBA’s Response: We agree with the empathetic words of wisdom from committee member, Rep. Paul Anderson. As a farmer, Anderson understands the hardship, but reminds the committee that major changes in the property tax system will have a direct effect on our schools. Any changes will have broad impacts on how we finance schools buildings in the future.


 

Office of Legislative Auditor

Legislators in both the House and Senate heard from the Office of Legislative Auditor (OLA) on teacher licensure this past week. The Legislature is taking the OLA’s recommendations and taking action that may include workgroups or task forces to look further into the issues and bring forth solutions to lawmakers.

We heard loud and clear that the current Minnesota Teacher Licensure system is broken and needs work.

Visit http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/pedrep/teacherssum.pdf for a summary of the OLA’s report on teacher licensure.

The OLA’s key recommendations were to:

  1. Clarify teacher-licensure statues
  2. Restructure teacher licenses (consider a tiered–licensure system)
  3. Consolidate all teacher-licensure activities into one state agency

Read MSBA Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind’s column regarding the teacher shortage issue for more information.


 

Here are links to some of the past week’s blog posts. If you didn’t have a chance to read them, take a look now.


 

A LOOK AHEAD

  • On Tuesday, March 22, SF 2513 — aka MSBA’s Teacher Shortage Act bill — will be heard in Senate Education Committee at 8:30 a.m. at the Minnesota Senate Building (Room 2412).
  • Also on Tuesday, the House Education Innovation Policy Committee will hear a bill (HF 3123) on special elections for school board vacancies.
  • On Thursday, March 24, the Senate Education Committee will hear a bill (SF 2323) that would require a student who assaults a teachers to be expelled from school.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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