MDE Weekly Superintendent Mail

December 6, 2013

Commissioner Cassellius Releases Statement Regarding Complete Repayment of the K-12 School Property Tax Recognition Shift

Today, Minnesota Management and Budget announced that the state will have a projected budget surplus of $1.086 billion for fiscal year 2014-15. Commissioner Cassellius Releases Statement Regarding Complete Repayment of the K-12 School Property Tax Recognition Shift. Read December 5 press release.

Commissioner Cassellius Named to CCSSO Board of Directors

Commissioner Brenda Cassellius has been selected to serve a three-year term on the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Board of Directors. Read December 5 press release.

Educational Cooperatives Selected for Expansion of Regional Centers of Excellence

The Regional Centers of Excellence have expanded from three locations to six. Staffed by specialists in reading, math and other content, the centers utilize a combination of professional development and technical assistance to help school leaders create and implement plans to narrow achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and ensure students are career and college ready. Read November 25 press release.


Tax Shift Buyback Based on Minnesota Statutes, Section 16A.152, and November Forecast

Please see the memorandum from Tom Melcher, director of school finance. The state’s November Forecast of revenues and expenditures projects a positive unrestricted general fund balance of $1.086 billion at the end of the current biennium, June 30, 2015. This triggers repayment to school districts of the remaining portion of tax shift in this year under Minnesota Statutes, section 16A.152, estimated at $246 million.

For assistance with questions, please contact Judy Kuck (651-582-1623).

World’s Best Workforce – Planning Guide; PowerPoint Update

NEW! See the PowerPoint presentation that is recommended for schools to use with their constituents.

If you have questions you would like to see addressed regarding the World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) plan, please send them to

Reminder: There is NOT a set due date for the district plan as it is NOT to be submitted to the department. However, districts should be in the planning stage now to be prepared to begin communicating how the district meets the legislative intent with stakeholders beginning in January. Districts that are planning to submit an application for integration funding need to align that application with the WBWF plan and submit the integration plan by the March 15 deadline.

Again, a planning document is available for development of your district’s WBWF plan. This tool is to help drive formative conversations within school districts as they develop their WBWF plans over the next several months. Access the planning document. Watch for future WBWF updates each week in this newsletter.

Use of Chromebooks and Tablets for Testing

For 2013-2014, online testing is not supported on Chromebooks, tablets or other mobile devices. While the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) continues to have conversations with our vendors to expand testing on multiple platforms (including mobile devices), one of our top responsibilities is providing each student with a smooth and standardized administration. We continue to keep on top of national research to inform our decision to move to more online options. At this time, there is not enough evidence that expanding online options to Chromebooks and tablets will allow us to administer the test items reliably in a smooth and standardized manner.

Until there is sufficient information to determine that all security and system requirements will be met on these devices, MDE suggests districts base purchasing decisions on instruction needs and not on being able to use them for testing.

Newly Identified Graduates Based on 2013 Legislation

See guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education regarding legislation passed during the 2013 session which allows a variety of assessments to be used to qualify a student to earn a Minnesota high school diploma, and the MARSS reporting for graduation status. Refer to Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.30, Subdivision 1.

For assistance with questions about MARSS reporting, contact

Properly Coding “Unknown” Students for Use in 2013 Graduation Rates

To assist districts in identifying students who may have left a graduation cohort, a new MARSS WES statewide report named “MARSS 61 Unknowns for Graduation Cohorts” is now posted for fall only. This report helps districts clean up the students currently coded as Unknown prior to the release of the 2013 graduation rates and before the use of those rates in next year’s 2014 Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR).

This report includes those students who were last reported in any of grades 9-12 in your district in EOY FY 2013 without graduating, transferring to a nonpublic school or a school in another state, moving to another country or passing away. The students on this report have not been reported as enrolled in a Minnesota public school in the Fall FY 2014 MARSS Files. These are students in the Unknown status that would be included as non-graduates in the upcoming release of your district’s graduation rate, and it is important to correct the end status of these students, if necessary.

MARSS coordinators have also been informed of this new “MARSS 61 Unknowns for Graduation Cohorts” report.

For assistance with questions, contact


National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Community Eligibility Provision

Exciting News! Starting school year 2014-15, schools with a high percentage of students from low-income households have the opportunity to provide free school lunches and breakfasts to all students under the USDA Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Schools are eligible to apply for CEP if the number of directly certified (SNAP, MFIP and FDPIR), migrant and homeless students is at least 40 percent of all enrolled students. The benefits to schools and students include:

• All students at participating schools will receive school meals at no cost. No more identification of free and reduced-priced eligibility.

• Improved attendance rates and test scores. Studies show that well-nourished children are able to focus in class and ultimately do better in school.

• Streamlined process for families and schools; no more “bad debts” to try to collect. Meal counting and claiming procedures are simplified.

In short, CEP allows for a healthier student body and a healthier school nutrition budget. Learn more about this opportunity at the USDA Community Eligibility Fact Sheet or Food Research Action Council. Additional information from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will be coming soon via the Superintendent’s mailing, MDE Food and Nutrition listserv mailings and on the MDE website.

Message to Parents – Check Medicine Cabinets

Superintendents are requested to include the following information on district/school websites and/or in newsletters.

As a new calendar year starts, families should check their medicine cabinets for unused or unwanted prescription drugs. Just by keeping these drugs in your household, you could unknowingly be providing easy access to one of the fastest growing categories of abused substances. Prescription drug abuse is rising rapidly, especially among teens. When abused, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs and often act as gateway drugs to heroin. Countering abuse of prescription drugs is a priority of the State Substance Abuse Strategy being implemented by the Department of Human Services, the departments of Health, Public Safety, Corrections, Education and other agencies as well as the State Judicial Board, Minnesota National Guard/Department of Military Affairs, Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and the Minnesota Health Professional Services Program. See more information about the State Substance Abuse Strategy on the Minnesota Department of Human Services website. The magnitude of heroin and opiate abuse across Minnesota is at its highest level ever. Addiction treatment admissions for heroin and other opiates accounted for 20 percent of all treatment admissions in the Twin Cities in 2012, second only to alcohol admissions.

Prescription drugs can be easy to get, often from family or friends for free or by visitors using home bathrooms. So take action and handle your prescription drugs responsibly. Clean out your medicine cabinet and dispose of any unwanted or unused pills so they are not a temptation.

Guidelines for drug disposal are available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

ED Review – A U.S. Department of Education Newsletter

ED Review provides a biweekly update on U.S. Department of Education initiatives and activities. See the latest ED Review posting on the U.S. Department of Education website.