(Minneapolis, MN, Wednesday, January 9, 2019) – Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, states have a responsibility to create systems to meaningfully address underperforming schools to provide all students a strong, equitable education. Minnesota’s school improvement plan was chosen to be reviewed as part of a new report from the Collaborative for Student Success and HCM Strategists, showing the results of an independent peer review analysis of current school improvement efforts across the country.

The report, “Check State Plans: From Promise to Practice,” highlights best practices being used in states to improve the lowest-performing schools, as well as ways states could better support student achievement. This includes whether districts and schools are using evidence-based strategies that meet school needs, and whether they are taking full advantage of federal and state funding.

Minnesota received a “Strong” rating in 2 out of 8 categories: its vision and its rigorous review process; and received a “Needs Improvement” rating in 2 out of 8 categories: capacity building and sustainability.

The panel of experts believe that Minnesota is using a “Partnership Approach” with districts, trying to walk the line acting as both a coach and a referee. States taking this approach generally work to enhance district capacity for school improvement and to make decisions that will serve all students. The peer reviewers praised Minnesota, in particular, for its thoughtful approach to targeting limited resources by focusing their grant funding to only those districts with the highest proportion of identified schools.

Strengths: Minnesota’s grant funding approach to only those districts with the highest proportion of identified schools is a smart, thoughtful way of targeting limited resources, though it will be important to ensure that other schools that are struggling have other avenues for support. Minnesota’s focus on equity and underserved groups of students and its needs assessment are also particularly strong.

Where the Plan Can Improve: Minnesota could utilize its authority to a far greater degree to drive the outcomes and systems-change it wants to see from districts and schools. The state’s approach seems to be mostly bottom-up, with the needs assessment being completed by the district or school and then submitted to the agency for approval as long as it meets the established criteria.

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