Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Day, Another Task Force.  MDE has been working overtime this legislative interim with a number of task forces and working groups.  As I reported last week, the School Facilities Financing Working Group has finished its work last week and its final report has been posted on the web.  A number of other are still at work and today saw the third meeting of the Integration Rule and Statute Alignment Working Group take place.

This working group is seeking to revise the current Integration Rule so that it aligns better with changes made to the Integration Revenue program over the past three legislative sessions.  As many of you recall, actions taken the legislature in 2011 pegged the entire program for elimination after the 2014-15 school year.  Actions taken during the 2013 legislative session rescued the revenue stream, but added an element of achievement to the concept of racially-balanced school environments upon which the program had traditionally been based.

While not at odds, melding the concepts of racially-balanced learning environments and achievement is not as straightforward a task as one would think.  The problem with focusing solely on racially-balanced learning environments is they can be difficult to create and maintain, especially with the opportunity of disgruntled parents to either opt out of a district's plan through open enrollment or by establishing a charter school.  We have seen this happen when districts make changes in attendance boundaries or enter into multi-district integration efforts.

At the same time, achievement should be at the heart of the education process and the integration program is one of four revenue streams--along with compensatory revenue, English language learner revenue, and literacy aid--that provide districts with resources to create programs intended to close the achievement gap, but integration   What makes integration and achievement revenue different is that it attempts to create learning environments that reflect the demographic balance in the wider community.  There is research that shows this can matter in closing the achievement gap and this perspective is voiced by a number of the working group participants.

There will be at least two more meetings of the working group.  Below is a link to the working group page at MDE.


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