Press Releases

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2013

Contact: Josh Collins, 651-582-8205 or

Minnesota Efforts for School Improvement Take the National Stage

ROSEVILLE – Today, Minnesota efforts to support struggling schools were highlighted on the national stage as the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), including Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and Assistant Commissioner Steve Dibb, presented at the Center on School Turnaround Symposium in Arlington, Virginia. Cassellius participated on a panel focused on innovative work that is having a big impact on student achievement.

Since receiving a waiver from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, Minnesota has worked to better identify schools with the largest achievement gaps and offer strategic, meaningful support. Commissioner Cassellius talked about Minnesota’s enhanced school support efforts, focusing on a key piece that has seen tremendous outcomes: the Regional Centers of Excellence.

Created around the idea that successful school improvement requires a more equitable, effective and efficient system of support across the state, the Regional Centers of Excellence are located throughout Greater Minnesota and staffed by specialists in all subject areas. Using a combination of high-quality professional development, on-site technical assistance and ongoing support, the centers help school leaders create and implement plans to narrow achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes to ensure all students are ready for a career or college.

With three centers currently operating—and three more in the planning stage as a result of additional funding from the Legislature’s successful 2013 “education session”—center staff members spend their days working directly with school teachers and leaders to identify areas where students are struggling and share best practices from other districts. Along with the MDE’s School Support Division, they form a statewide system of support for the state’s Priority and Focus schools.

The response and results of this innovative regional delivery approach can already be seen throughout the state. And, MDE is seeking applications from colleges and universities, integrated school districts, education cooperatives, children's mental health providers, and other entities interested in partnering to serve schools equitably through this model.

“The Regional Centers of Excellence are working, and we are seeing the impacts in schools now,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “When our teachers and schools have the resources they need, they are able to do great things for the children of Minnesota.”

With the third round of Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) scores set to be released Tuesday, Oct. 1, preliminary results show that dozens of schools have made significant progress and will no longer be designated as Priority or Focus schools. Some of the schools that will be removed from the Priority designation are those that are finishing their three full years of implementing the School Improvement Grant (SIG), a federal grant program focused on turning around the lowest-performing schools.

“The system of support we’ve designed is making a difference, and we are excited to share the results with the public next week,” continued Cassellius.