The state of Minnesota this week unveiled a new system to measure public school districts. The Multiple Measurement Ratings system focuses on schools with high poverty rates, and then identifies those that are excelling, those that are the lowest achievers, and those that are not doing enough to close the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. Yes, it is quite different from the previous standards, which looked at all public schools and declared many unsuccessful.
Minnesota gained a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law in order to move ahead with its new measurements. No Child was initiated under the premise that countless schools across the nation were not doing enough to educate kids. Former President Bush called this the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and he nailed the nature of the problem. But No Child critics - and their ranks grew over time - rightly pointed out that the federal law painted with too broad a brush. An entire school could earn a failing label even when its problem might have involved just a few students.
Under Minnesota's new system, troubled schools will develop turnaround plans with help from the state. Schools with achievement gaps between students also will put together plans. Those schools deemed outstanding will be encouraged to share their practices with others. Minnesota officials say they want to be able to better assess how students are doing, and be able to support schools' efforts to do better.
We believe officials put a lot of time and effort into revamping the measurements, and we believe those new standards should serve the state well. It's worth the try to see what happens.