Standards and Accountability: Minnesota has developed clear and specific standards in elementary, middle, and high school for English, mathematics, and science. The state earned increased points this year because it has adopted clear and specific standards for social studies in both middle and high schools as well.
But the state has exams based on state standards in all grade spans in English and math only, a fact that significantly lowers its grade. State assessments include multiple-choice and short-answer items to test student knowledge in all grade spans. But only elementary and high school English tests use extended-response questions.
Minnesota publishes test data on school report cards. Starting with test data from 2003-04, the state now uses such data to rate elementary, middle, and high schools.
The state does not, however, provide help to both Title I and non-Title I schools identified as consistently low-performing or failing, nor does it place sanctions on both kinds of schools rated as such. Minnesota also does not give monetary rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Minnesota requires teacher-candidates to meet comprehensive state-set content standards and competencies for their teaching fields, instead of requiring them to complete a specific amount of coursework.
Even so, the state gains points because 86 percent of its teachers major in the core academic subjects they teach, a higher percentage than in any other state.
The state also requires prospective high school and middle school teachers to take subject-matter exams. But teachers in the state’s alternative-licensure program do not need to pass subject-matter tests before they enter the classroom.
In addition, Minnesota does not use performance assessments to determine how new teachers are doing in the classroom, and that omission hurts its grade.
The state’s grade also suffers because its efforts in professional support and training have been curbed by budget woes. The state does not require and pay for mentoring support for new teachers. In the past, the state required districts to set aside up to 2 percent of general revenues from the state for professional development. Because of district budget constraints, that requirement has been waived for 2003-04 and 2004-05 only.
Minnesota also does not provide financial incentives to teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
The state’s school report cards include information on new teachers and teacher-licensure status. Additional teacher-qualification data, such as the percentage of teachers meeting federal requirements for “highly qualified” status, will be added in the future.
School Climate: Minnesota’s relatively high grade for school climate stems, in part, from its school choice provisions, which include a statewide open-enrollment system and a charter school law rated strong by the Center for Education Reform. Minnesota was a pioneer in those forms of public school choice.
Minnesota is one of 17 states that survey students, teachers, or parents about the conditions in their schools. The state administers the Minnesota Student Survey in grades 6, 9, and 12.
The state loses points because its school report cards do not include information about parent involvement, school safety, or class size.
Equity: In Minnesota, differences in combined state and local funding across districts are not tied to local property wealth, as indicated by the state’s near-zero wealth-neutrality score.
In fact, Minnesota is one of just 10 states with a negative score, indicating that property-poor districts in the state actually receive more resources than their wealthy counterparts.
The state has a coefficient of variation of 13.5 percent, however, ranking it 29th of the 50 states. That shows there are still some moderate disparities in funding across districts in the state.
Spending: Minnesota spent $7,889 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year. That figure is above the national average of $7,734 per pupil and places the state 23rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s spending level marked a 1.2 percent increase from the previous year.
About half of Minnesota students attend schools in districts where spending is at least at the national average. The state ranks 25th on the spending index, which reflects both the percentage of students in districts spending at or above the national average and how far the rest are below that average.
Minnesota spends more of its total taxable resources on education—4 percent—than do 27 other states.