Minnesota To Pilot Test 'Learner Outcomes' System

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Minnesota lawmakers have agreed to fund up to 10 research and development sites for the state's new "learner outcomes" system, which has been proposed as an alternative to seat-time curriculum requirements.

The schools and districts chosen as research sites under the $1-million competitive-grants program may also incorporate site-based management, technology-based teaching methods, and multiple assessments of outcomes in their projects, state education officials said.

The projects will receive technical assistance from a newly created office of educational leadership in the state department of education. To qualify, they must also be affiliated with a teacher-training institution where outcome-based education methods are taught, the officials noted.

The pilot program was funded in the state's omnibus education bill, which was passed shortly before the legislature adjourned last week.

Lawmakers chose to deviate considerably from the budget recommendations of Gov. Rudy Perpich, who had proposed a 1.6 percent increase in the state's per-pupil formula allowance the first year of a biennial budget. The Governor had proposed no increase in the second year.

The bill included a 3 percent increase in per-pupil allocations for the first year of the biennium, and a 4.1 percent hike in the second year.

The legislature resisted attempts to tie part of the second year's funding increase to reductions in pupil-teacher ratios in the early primary grades. Instead, it earmarked $6.4 million for reducing the ratios, increasing the individual attention given each learner in kindergarten and 1st grade, and improving program offerings.

The Governor had proposed allocating much of the available new money for schools to categorical programs rather than to the general-aid formula. But his arguments for targeting special populations with new programs received a cool reception from lawmakers and state education groups. (See Education Week, March 22, 1989.)

The legislature also rejected the Governor's proposals for a statewide testing program and for an initative to purchase one computer for every four students.

It did, however, provide significant funding for several categorical programs, including $10.5 million for programs designed to ensure that students master basic skills in mathematics and communications. Open-Enrollment Amendments

The omnibus bill also includes several amendments to the state's landmark open-enrollment program, which is scheduled to be fully implemented over the next two years.

The final compromise dropped an earlier proposal to restrict the participation of transferring students in athletics and other extracurricular activities offered by their new district.

The bill addresses some logistical difficulties of open enrollment by requiring that parents by Feb. 15 inform the district where they would like their child to attend for the coming year.

The students are then obligated to remain in the new district for at least one year, and need not reapply if they intend to remain enrolled there.

The legislature rejected the Governor's proposal to expand the participation of private schools in a separate school-choice program for dropouts and at-risk students.

Vol. 08, Issue 36

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