Minnesota parents and educators will soon see the results of a whole new yardstick for measuring schools that gives state tests new meaning and the state's schools new labels.
The Minnesota Department of Education on Tuesday will present a new accountability system that reshuffles the rankings and removes the biggest penalties for schools at the bottom.
"Personally, what I find most exciting is that we're not just focusing on failures," said Sam Kramer, the department's point man for the new accountability system. "We've created a system that has incentives in place for success. And we know that in education people tend to respond to rewards, rather than just punishment."
The new system arises from the waiver granted to Minnesota by the U.S. Department of Education that frees the state from some of the tougher requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, such as the mandate that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
Under the new plan, schools will still be judged on their students' scores in math and reading, but they will also have to show academic growth in individual students, a strong high school graduation rate, and a shrinking achievement gap between middle-class white students and their classmates.