This past Tuesday, July 3, the National Education Association (NEA) honored Governor Mark Dayton with the 2012 America’s Greatest Education Governor Award. The annual award recognizes and honors governors who have made major, state-level education strides that improve public schools. The award was presented by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel before approximately 9,000 educators. Governor Dayton is the fifth recipient of the award.
In regard to the award, Governor Dayton said, “I am very honored to receive this award from educators across America,” said Gov. Dayton. “As a former public school teacher, I know how challenging their jobs are. I promised that my administration would make education and jobs my highest priorities. This award shows we’re making progress.”
Three major Minnesota universities are currently participating in Governor Dayton’s Trade Mission to China. The University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State University, and Metropolitan State University have each seen substantial growth in their relationships with Chinese universities, students, and faculty in recent years, and the current trade mission offers all three an occasion to strengthen current ties to China, and to also create new partnerships. Below is a brief overview of each university’s connections to China, as well as their objectives for the current trade mission.
University of Minnesota
The first Chinese students attended the University of Minnesota in 1914. Today, of the 4,500 international students, faculty, and staff at the University, over 1,400 are visiting Chinese scholars and students, the largest Chinese population of any campus in North America. In 2004, President Robert Bruininks led an official University of Minnesota delegation to China to facilitate educational exchange and promote cultural understanding. By 2009, the University of Minnesota launched its first official office abroad in Beijing, which provides support for students, faculty, and staff traveling to China on official University business. The University’s rapport with China has consistently progressed in recent years, leading to a growing Chinese presence on campus, which the current delegation will continue to encourage.
St. Cloud State University
Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) has developed deep international relationships and agreements over many years of interaction. St. Cloud State University has active relationships with more than 25 overseas universities and institutions through their Center for International Studies, including eight Chinese universities. The partnerships include student and faculty exchanges and participation of Chinese students and faculty in a summer training institute on the SCSU campus.
The partnership with Shanghai University of Engineering Science has taken individual importance during this trade mission. St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter, a veteran of four governor’s trade missions, anticipates meeting with the new president of SUES, Xiaodong Ding, during the trade mission. In addition, both SUES President Xiaodong Ding and the institution’s previous president, Dr. Wang Hong, now governor of the industrial/port district in Shanghai, have both been invited to attend a reception with Governor Dayton.
This week, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released information about how schools across the state are doing. Unlike years past, this year, the ratings look a little different.
The ratings are based on a new accountability system – made possible with the approval of Minnesota’s No Child Left Behind (NLCB) waiver - that provides a better, fairer picture of how Minnesota schools are actually doing.
The new system is a vast improvement from the previous system, which measured schools solely based on a single high-stakes test to determine an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) score. That limited snapshot resulted in a system that unfairly mislabeled and over labeled schools as failing – even schools that were performing at high levels.
Now, with the new Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) system, schools will be evaluated on a number of equally measured criteria. MDE will take into consideration:
Proficiency - How are students scoring on state tests?
Student growth - How are students making progress toward their goals?
Achievement gap reduction – How are schools doing to close the performance gaps among groups of students?
Graduation rate – How many students are graduating from high school each year?
As part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Better Government for a Better Minnesota reform initiative, state government officials are turning their attention to the rising costs of higher education.
Last week, Governor Dayton, Senator Franken, and Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller met with students from around the state to discuss the challenges they face, including higher tuition costs and crippling student debt. At the same time, state higher education funding per student has fallen by 48% since 2000. Colleges are trying to educate students with far fewer resources, and many of the costs are now falling to students themselves. These obstacles are limiting Minnesota students’ educational opportunities and are making it more difficult for them to gain the education they need to succeed in the workforce.
After Monday’s meeting in Minneapolis, OHE Director Pogemiller toured the state to get feedback from other colleges. He traveled to Austin and Winona last week to discuss the rising costs of college for students. He stressed the need for the state to return higher education funding to historical levels to help students manage their costs. The Office of Higher Education already works to provide tips to current and prospective students on how they can lower the costs of a college education, and the department strives to improve the resources they offer.
Governor Mark Dayton has issued a proclamation declaring April as Financial Literacy Month in Minnesota. Financial Literacy Month kicks off an unprecedented statewide outreach effort organized by the state’s newly founded ‘Interagency Work Group on Financial Literacy.’ Over the next four weeks, the work group will be coordinating nearly 40 outreach events, such as educational workgroups, financial trainings, and homeownership forums for Minnesota students, soldiers, families, and senior citizens.
Governor Dayton noted in his proclamation that, “Providing all Minnesotans the tools to make informed choices and avoid pitfalls helps improve their financial security.”
Every spring, sixth graders from Mankato board busses for an exciting field trip to St. Paul. There, they visit the Capitol and meet with their legislators to learn about civics first hand. Hearing the trip may have to be canceled this year because a thief stole $2,300 raised to support the visit, Governor Dayton decided to bring government to Mankato. He visited the students at Franklin and Garfield Elementary Schools, speaking about his role in government before taking questions from the students.
When they visit St. Paul, the students usually tour the Capitol Rotunda, the Governor’s Office, and the Supreme Court before meeting with their legislators. Afterwards, they also visit the Science Museum and Omnitheater, and finally end their day at historic Fort Snelling. For 34 years, the Mankato Sertoma Club has helped make this trip possible by raising funds to support the students. They’re still working hard to make sure the trip happens, but Governor Dayton wanted to be certain these students wouldn’t miss an opportunity to learn about their state government.
For 2011 Milken Award winner Seth Brown, his sudden national recognition would not be possible without the support and mentorship of countless other teachers. During a meeting with Governor Dayton last week, Brown described his teaching method as a collection of ideas he has taken from fellow educators and modified to fit his classroom.
Wherever he gets his ideas, Brown’s methods have gotten results, and gotten noticed.
The Milken Award coined as the “Oscars of Teaching” recognizes and celebrates educators for their achievements in the classroom. Selected through an entirely word-of-mouth process, Milken awardees are picked for what they have achieved and what they are poised to accomplish in the future. As a recipient, Brown received $25,000 and access to many professional development opportunities.
There was a lot of action this week at the Capitol, with legislative deadlines looming and important legislation on the move. However, there was also a lot of great work being done around government reform and improving services for all Minnesotans.
Today, the Governor stood with Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to celebrate yet another competitive federal grant award for MDE. Today’s grant money brings the total amount of new money won by the department under the Dayton administration to nearly $119 million. These reforms (and the funding we have won as a result) mean that our state’s schools continue to improve and that Minnesota is returning to a role as a national leader in education.
Earlier this week, Human Services Commissioner Cindy Jesson did a wonderful job of trumpeting her Department’s work to save taxpayers money while still ensuring that their programs serve Minnesotans well. The Department of Human Services has established a new Office of the Inspector General to root out waste and fraud in social service programs.
Governor Mark Dayton’s New Jobs New Jobs Tax Credit is focused on immediate job creation. It would provide businesses with a $3,000 tax credit for each unemployed Minnesotan, Veteran or recent graduate hired in calendar year 2012 and a $1,500 credit for each new hire through June 2013. This $35 million initiative would create over 10,000 new, private-sector jobs each year.
As Minnesota emerges from a deep recession, the focus of the legislature needs to remain on job creation. Today, 55,000 more people are employed than at the height of the recession, but many more remain jobless. The New Jobs Tax Credit is designed to give local businesses an incentive to hire unemployed Minnesotans, especially those who were hardest hit by the recession, Minnesota veterans and recent college graduates.
Minnesota National Guard’s Adjutant General, Richard Nash, recently reported that of the over 3,000 Minnesota Guardsmen and women presently serving in Kuwait, 22% of them will be unemployed, when they return home. The New Jobs Tax Credit will ensure that we reverse this shameful fact and make sure all of Minnesota’s veterans return to jobs in their hometowns across the state of Minnesota.
As Minnesota’s first African American Commissioner of Education, I am responsible for policies that impact the lives and education of nearly a million Minnesota children. I come to this task with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to influence an area I care so deeply about. I also come with a deep sense of humility, and the knowledge that I stand on the shoulders of many who have come before me, including my own parents and my grandfather.
I grew up poor, but I never felt a poverty of love. My mother, just sixteen when she had my sister and only a few years older when I came along, never graduated from high school. Though she struggled at times, she was our greatest advocate. She was also was a firm believer in the notion that it truly does take a village to raise a child. So I was a Head Start baby. I was involved in community programs and I loved going to, and later serving as a youth counselor at summer camp. Each of these experiences opened the door to a world of possibilities. My father, also a consistent presence in my life even though he and my mother were not always together, reinforced the notion that education was my ticket to a better life. He would tell me I could either continue the cycle of poverty into which I was born, or could choose to continue my education and break the cycle. He told me “This is America. You can be anything or anybody you want to be. You might have to work harder than most folks, but if you’re willing, the future is yours to determine.”
As true as those words were for me, they were not, and are not, always true for everyone. Any forward progress that African Americans have achieved has been hard won through the heroic efforts of many, including my own grandfather, Melvin Alston. He played a key role in the relationship between race and public education years before Brown v. Board of Education changed the course of history in the United States.