Full Day at the Capitol. It was a dawn to past-dusk day at the Capitol on Tuesday with a number of meetings. I'll give you the highlights. The House Education Policy kicked off the day, taking testimony from a variety of education interests on their policy goals for the session. Seeing we weren't talking about money (at least directly), my testimony revolved around the need to have no additional mandates and to re-visit a number of mandates currently in place and allow school districts more flexibility in facing their financial challenges. I also spoke in favor of the innovation revenue section of the New Minnesota Miracle proposed by Representative Greiling (DFL-Roseville) as a way to bring about last policy change.
The subject discussed at House K-12 Funding Division meeting was alternative education, with a presentation by the Legislative Auditor's office of their recent study "Alternative Education Programs." It was a very instructive meeting and the findings of the Legislative Auditor bear out much of what most have believed over the years in that alternative education works. While test scores in alternative programs still lags, growth models are showing that students in alternative programs--especially those receiving targeted services--often gain more than a year's worth of academic progress.
While the report does point out the need for increased monitoring of alternative education programs, the report left little doubt that alternative education programs are extremely valuable for a number of students (15% of the state's total student count is involved with alternative education for at least part of the school day). One of the report's recommendation is to allow school districts to offer targeted services outside of alternative settings. That would provide more instructional time for students who are at academic risk. Clearly, the need also exists to re-visit the 2003 decision to greatly reduce extended time revenue. If we are going to raise test scores, more instructional time-on-task should be made available to students. Hopefully, this report will help make that case easier to sell.
Kudos again to Judy Randall, Evaluation Manager at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, for putting together another solid report relating to an education program.
Alternative Education Programs Link: http://http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/PED/2010/alted.htm