Over the past three years, I have had the unique opportunity to collaborate with a few dozen superintendents and several hundred educators in an effort to improve the educational experience for all students. I consider this work some of the most important work in my career and more importantly, potentially the most impactful for the future of our state.
This work started with a discussion about the “Cruz-Guzman” litigation, a lawsuit filed by parents and students attending schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul against the State of Minnesota alleging that the schools are segregated on the basis of race and socioeconomic status resulting in an inadequate education in violation of Education Clause of the State Constitution. These families were concerned that their children were forced to attend underperforming schools. A few superintendents were approached and encouraged to have their districts join in the litigation on behalf of the state in order to defend our local control, our school district boundaries, and our financial stability. Instead of choosing to join the litigation, these districts decided to take action to improve our schools.
With the help of Paula Forbes, an attorney and talented facilitator, participating districts gathered input from over 3,000 parents, students and community members. Over the next six months, educators from almost 40 school districts met to review the input and create a collective education plan. From these stakeholder discussions, the Reimagine Minnesota plan was unveiled in November, 2017. This plan contains nine areas of focus:
- Preparation and Retention
- Community Bridges
- Cultural Competence
- Shared Understanding
- Student Voice
- Personalized Education
- Statewide Funding
- Adult Behaviors
- Cultural Inclusivity
Since the launch of this collective action plan, leadership has coordinated almost a dozen sessions to share best practices in each of the strategic areas deemed by the group. A scorecard to measure the effectiveness of this effort has been created and populated for the first year of implementation and is being updated for year two.
In addition to the work being done by leadership, outside organizations have taken notice and offered support. In October 2019, over 1,000 students from the Twin Cities attended a student conference to provide input on how our public schools can better meet all students’ needs. The University of Minnesota has conducted an analysis of the strategies to determine if research supports the efforts. Results of that research will be shared at a December 5 public review. The presentation will consider feedback from the students collected during the student conference.
The energy around this work continues to grow. All Minnesota superintendents are welcome to gather information about this effort and participate. I would not pretend that this plan is the cure-all to address the unacceptable discrepancies in student outcomes, but I will boast that there are dozens, if not hundreds of superintendents, vested in this work who won’t rest until this problem is solved.