Regional Centers of Excellence

Question and Answer Guidance on the Expansion of the Regional Centers of Excellence (RCEs)

Q: How are the services and support available in the RCEs related to the work underway at my service cooperative and my school?

A: The support offered in the centers is a collaborative effort between the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and six service cooperatives that serve as fiscal agents for this work. The services provided are limited to those for which MDE has a responsibility to provide in statute, regulation or policy.

Services that can be provided more efficiently, effectively, and equitably through a regional delivery system may be available from the RCEs. The service cooperatives that serve as the RCE fiscal agents still provide support to their member organizations, just as they have done in the past. Their leadership and guidance ensures services are delivered in a cohesive manner and access to them is available statewide.

Q: What type of service delivery model will be used?

A: The centers will provide regional professional development sessions throughout the state that incorporate the constructs of implementation science. The training will be provided as either full- or half-day sessions and will likely be presented in four to eight sessions over a period of one year.

The sessions are designed for teams of school leaders, teacher leaders, parents and community members. Teams will be asked to attend the sessions as a group, and apply and integrate their learning in their respective settings. If additional targeted support is needed, RCE staff will be able to provide it through follow-up sessions.

If intensive support is requested, arrangements can be made for RCE staff to provide customized support on-site at the school or district alongside the leadership teams. It is expected that the initial, introductory-level session, and the optional follow-up sessions will be provided collaboratively by MDE and center staff free of charge. Intensive support will be available in the future on a fee-for-service basis.

Q: Will our school have access to the content specialists that currently work in the RCE to help the leadership team in our school?

A: No. The content specialists who currently work with Focus and Priority schools through the RCEs are employed with federal funds to provide the Statewide System of Support (SSOS) on behalf of MDE, as required by the U.S. Department of Education.

These individuals work exclusively with Focus and Priority schools. However, if this type of content and continuous improvement support is of interest to leadership teams, it may be made available to non-Focus and non-Priority schools in the future.

Q: How will center expansion impact the work and relationships established by SSOS?

A: The relationships established between the Focus and Priority school teams and their school advocates and content specialists will continue as they have in the past. In addition, all schools in Minnesota will have access to professional development support that helps leadership teams implement research-based interventions and practices to increase student achievement.

Q: What kind of services and support will be offered to schools? What are they going to get out of the RCEs?

A: If MDE has a responsibility to provide support in a specific area, such as teacher evaluation, and if this support can be offered more effectively, efficiently and equitably through a regional service delivery system, then it will likely be offered in the RCEs. For example, services and support in the areas of dropout prevention, standards implementation, and transition planning for ninth grade students will soon be available in the RCEs.

Q: What plans are in place for sustainability of the RCEs in the coming years?

A: Funding for the expansion of the RCEs was made available for two years. The expansion is in the second half of year one. A program evaluation is in place to measure the extent to which the RCEs have achieved the results described in the legislation. The intent is to secure additional funding in the 2015 legislative session to further expand the RCEs.

Q: How are the new RCEs going to be able to address all of the expectations in the legislation?

A: The statute that details the RCEs presents a monumental challenge and there is much to be done. However, staff members are in place to administer the expansion of the centers. They are designing professional development, working with trainers to deliver needed support, and fostering partnerships with others, such as postsecondary institutions, integrated school districts and children's mental health providers. Collaborating ensures the RCEs are able to provide consistent and cohesive support so leadership teams can implement programs that close the achievement gap, increase students' progress and growth toward career and college readiness, and increase student graduation rates. (See Chapter 116, article 2, section 7.)

Q: How will the regions be defined? Are there borders?

A: There are no physical or geographical borders for the RCEs. Educators throughout the state can access professional development provided by the RCEs anywhere it is offered. There are currently six fiscal agents (service cooperatives in Thief River Falls, Mountain Iron, Fergus Falls, St. Cloud, Marshall, and Rochester). The services they provide are available throughout the state and are based on need.

For example, RCE staff hosted professional development sessions in Staples and Bemidji, in partnership with other organizations and the service cooperative.

Q: How do schools access services?

A: Educators can register for RCE services and support on the MDE website (http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/SchSup/RegCenterExc/index.html). Once you select a professional development series, you will be redirected to the service cooperative hosting the session to complete that organization’s registration and submit payment.

Q: How do the RCEs connect internally to focus and align initiatives?

A: Center and department leaders developed detailed plans to assist with the implementation and solution-focused, problem-solving activities. Stakeholders met, and will continue to meet on a regular basis, to further design and implement the expanded RCE network. The goal is to ensure equitable access to consistent and cohesive support for the implementation of research-based interventions and practices that increase student achievement across the state.