The Senate Education Finance Committee received an update on the World’s Best Workforce from the Minnesota Department of Education on Thursday, January 15. The Department applauded the progress that is being made on this statewide initiative.
Three school districts (Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale) provided first-hand experiences implementing the new accountability system. MSBA’s Denise Dittrich (Associate Director of Government Relations) and Jeff Olson (Membership Services) provided testimony summarizing their observations as districts work toward implementing the law.
Here are some highlights from Dittrich’s and Olson’s testimony to the committee:
Since 1920, MSBA has played an active role in supporting, promoting and enhancing the work of public school board members and public education. We are continually evolving in order to remain relevant in assisting board members with the challenges they face.
One example of how we support the work of school board members is to assist them in one of the most important decisions they make as board members — which is hiring and evaluating a superintendent. We also assist school districts with the development of strategic planning.
As the result of that work, we have had an opportunity to visit with a number of school districts about theie World’s Best Workforce plans. We try to help them see how the five goals of the World’s Best Workforce can and should be integrated into what they are doing.
In general, all of the school districts shared similar views:
1. The five components of the plan make sense and are areas that we should have as priorities.
2. The plan can be a cornerstone for a district strategic plan, or can readily be incorporated under the “umbrella” of an existing strategic plan; how to do this does not come naturally for all school districts.
3. While the plan has a lot of positives, there were initially and still are some concerns over “another state mandate” that takes staff time, or in some cases requires new programs or courses associated with implementation of effective strategies to achieve their goals, or additional staff training and development.
Some of the examples cited include the additional responsibilities being placed on school principals who are already dealing with the added responsibility of implementing the new teacher evaluation requirement and additional responsibilities for guidance counselors who are also dealing with implementing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, and the need to train staff in the use of new assessment models such as the suite of ACT tests. A number of the schools have also added or modified courses in the area of career development.
4. We want to go on record noting that there are added costs associated with implementing the plan in the best manner possible. Every school district wants to be successful in making yearly progress on the five World’s Best Workforce goals, but in many cases those strategies to create success will require additional resources.
In summary, the plan, especially with the flexibility for local control, can be a good thing for school districts as long as it is adequately funded and supported.