On Monday, Governor Mark Dayton convened the first Governor's American Indian Summit, with the goal of improving access to high quality education opportunities to all Minnesota youth. The summit brought together tribal and state education leaders, as well as key stakeholders, to address barriers and challenges currently facing the state's Indian students. Star Tribune reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger covered the event in the story below.
The dismal statistics are too familiar: American Indian students' test scores lag behind those of their white peers, their dropout rates are higher and alcohol abuse is more frequent.
On Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton kicked off the first Governor's American Indian Education summit to tackle the vexing issues.
"Something is missing," Dayton said at the opening of the daylong meeting. "Something is either not there that should be there or is there and is being misdirected, and that's the purpose of this summit."
While the gubernatorial imprimatur on the summit was unique, the DFL governor is at the end of a long line of officials who, over the years, have brought together top minds in the state to cope with the problem. The St. Paul gathering stands out because this time, the state and the 11 tribes are working side by side on the thorny issues surrounding Indian education, said Keith Hovis, a spokesman for the state Education Department.
Getting Minnesota Back to Work
- Under the Governor’s leadership Minnesota continues to outpace the national economic recovery. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 5.9 percent, compared to 8.6 percent for the rest of the country. There are 53,000 more Minnesotans at work now, compared to the bottom of the recession.
- Governor Dayton worked to pass a $500 million bonding bill, putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work improving bridges, roads and infrastructure.
The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant will focus on efforts to improve and boost early childhood education. Minnesota was one of nine states selected to receive a grant.
"Today’s announcement fulfills Governor Mark Dayton’s promise to utilize a collaborative, community based approach in applying for the grant and furthers the Administration’s commitment toward positioning Minnesota as a national leader in early education reform," the Park Rapids Enterprise reports.
After the announcement, Governor Dayton held a news conference at the Capitol.
Minnesota Public Radio reports:
At a Capitol news conference, Gov. Mark Dayton described Minnesota's award as great news in several ways.
"It's a great day for everyone who cares about the future of our children," said Dayton. "And it's a great day for Minnesota, because it's a day that Minnesota has been recognized nationally, where we should be, as one of the preeminent leaders in the nation when it comes to such important areas as early childhood education."
Gov. Mark Dayton and his commissioners are fanning out across Minnesota.
Education, revenue, pollution control and agency heads are following their boss' lead by hitting the road to take the pulse of the people.
"I think it makes a better relationship between Minnesota citizens and their government," Dayton said. It is essential, he said, for administration officials to "get out from behind the desk and the office and really see firsthand what's going on there in the real world and get the dialogue going. I really encourage commissioners to do that. I am very proud of them for doing so."
As a candidate, Dayton toured Minnesota's 87 counties in 87 days, covering 9,000 miles in less than three months. At the tour's conclusion, he bragged that he'd probably been to more counties more often, "than all the other candidates combined."
The Governor also attended the school's PRIDE Assembly, which celebrates school and student successes. At the assembly, Governor Dayton answered questions from the Student Council and announced the names of the students who received December's Student of the Month award.
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and MDE staff will embark on a statewide tour to present information about Minnesota’s waiver request and plans for a new accountability system that will more accurately and fairly measure schools progress.
“While the goals of NCLB are noble and some aspects of the law have been effective, it’s clear Minnesota can, and must do better,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “That’s why Governor Dayton has taken the lead in making Minnesota one of the first states to create an accountability system that is more responsive to the needs of our students, our schools and our state. These meetings will provide the public an opportunity to hear about Minnesota's waiver request, ask questions and offer feedback.”
The first meetings will be held in Rochester on December 7 and in St. Cloud on December 14. To read the full announcement and for more information about the waiver request, click here.
According to AMSD:
Governor Dayton exhibited strong support for public education throughout the 2011 legislative session beginning with his budget proposal which called for increased investments in education even in the face of a major state budget shortfall.
“The Governor kept his campaign promise to invest in education every year he was governor even though the state faced a projected $6.2 billion budget shortfall when he had to submit his budget. His support for public education did not waiver during a very challenging legislative session,” said AMSD Executive Director Scott Croonquist.
He was joined by Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, Public Safety Commissioner Mona Doman, Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Rep. Jim Davnie, Sen. Scott Dibble and anti-bullying advocate Tammy Aaberg.
“Bullying causes severe suffering and harm to the children, who are its victims; and we must do more to stop it. Children and parents in Minnesota should have confidence that their schools are safe places for learning and are free of harm or intimidation. The work of this Task Force is critical to ensuring that a healthy and nurturing school environment exists for every child in our state," said Governor Dayton.
The task force will be made up of no more than 15 members, to be appointed by Governor Dayton through the open appointments process. Members of the taskforce will include the Commissioners of the Department of Education, the Department of Human Rights, the Department of Public Safety and members of the legislature. The Governor will also appoint additional members with experience or expertise in psychology, education, pediatrics and anti-bullying advocacy.
The Opportunity Index ranked all 50 states using indicators such as the unemployment rate, poverty rate, on-time graduation rate, and others to assign a first of its kind Opportunity Score. Minnesota earned an Opportunity Score of 81.2 out of 100.
According to the announcement, Minnesota earned high marks:
Minnesota outperformed almost every other state in the union, earning an Opportunity Score of 81.2 out of 100. A few of the highlights that helped set Minnesota apart include:
- Weathering the Economic Downturn: During a time when a majority of the country is struggling to make ends meet, Minnesota’s residents earn a slightly higher on average income than most Americans ($57,007 vs. $51,425). In addition, their statewide poverty rate is just over 10% compared to the national average of 13.47% and their unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national unemployment rate (7.4% vs. 9.1%, respectfully).
All Minnesota high schools can participate in College Application Week, and seventeen Minnesota high schools have indicated they are planning to pilot a program, with the assistance of trained school staff and volunteers, that aims to assist all their seniors in completing a college application. Irondale High School in New Brighton is one of 17 Minnesota high schools piloting a program this year to increase the number of college applicants.
Caption: Irondale High School students meet with Commissioner Cassellius (second from right) during her visit to to Irondale High School for College Application Week. State Representative Kate Knuth, an Irondale alumna, also visited with students.