St. Paul, Minnesota – The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Minnesota state plan on August 1st and will allow a 30 day public comment period. The Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) and Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) compared the State plan to recommendations they offered earlier this year in their policy brief.

MnEEP and CAAL are pleased to see that students are awarded points for English language proficiency based on how close they reach the annual target according to their initial grade and language levels, and that there are extended trajectories toward proficiency for students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE). Additionally CAAL and MnEEP support MDE’s plan to have recently arrived English Learners (ELs) gradually included in their school’s accountability system from their first year, and that reclassified ELs will be counted for four years.

Concerns remain about the plan include the lack of ambition in setting trajectories toward proficiency for older ELs, the lack of transparency for schools not identified for support but still needing it, and the lack of transparency in disaggregated reporting of reclassified ELs.  Furthermore, MDE’s plan as is does not include concrete strategies for strong and responsive community engagement, which CAAL and MnEEP believe  is the  foundation to ensuring parents more effectively advocate for their children’s education and themselves.

MnEEP and CAAL formed the Minnesota Multilingual Equity Network, which brought a variety of stakeholders, including teachers, parents and education experts to focus attention on how Minnesota should design its state education plan to meet the new requirements of ESSA. Under ESSA, MDE must develop multiple new standards for ensuring quality education for English Learners in order to be in compliance with federal government requirements.

Bo Thao-Urabe, CAAL’s Network Director states, “We are happy to see ESSA’s focus on English Learners, who make up some of the largest student growth populations in Minnesota’s school districts. We urge community members to respond to the state plan and participate in the MDE’s regional meetings. For too long, parents and students have felt stigmatized when placed in EL programs. This is an opportunity for them to offer insights and innovative ideas to strengthen programs that serve their children to succeed academically.”

The Minnesota Multilingual Equity Network’s policy brief provides important background information about Minnesota’s English Learners (ELs), and the state’s alignment with the federal ESSA Law. It also provides seven recommendations on what is needed to achieve high academic outcomes for ELs:

  1. Implement strong and culturally responsive family engagement to meet evolving and diverse educational needs
  2. Provide academic native language curriculum and courses to support rigorous literacy development
  3. Use a robust and multidimensional calculation of growth toward English language proficiency
  4. Develop consistent, objective criteria and school practices for EL program entry and exit
  5. Use baseline data from recently arrived ELs to establish and maintain high academic standards
  6. Prioritize support for early development of dual language learners
  7. Strategically strengthen professional development and programs to support ELs in low-performing schools

“It is important to have authentic voices for determining public policy that works well for the people,” shared Carlos Mariani Rosa, MnEEP Executive Director.  

Mariani Rosa further adds, “We are pleased to support emerging multilingual learners to shape laws that help them to achieve high levels of academic proficiency in Minnesota.”

To download the policy brief, please visit mneep.org or caalmn.org.