2020 was not what anyone expected. We experienced a palpable shift in just about everything. This year demonstrated that we are capable of change—pushing the limits of possibility, bold action, and bringing new voices to the table to shape the future of education: learning, engagement, collaboration, advocacy, and the urgency with which our work had to shift.
This was a pivotal year—one in which the racism and inequities communities have faced for generations are finally becoming a priority in decision-making spaces. COVID-19’s devastating impact on Minnesota students and their access to a quality education forced policymakers to shift into response mode to address the immediate needs of students and their families. And the EdAllies team stayed focused on who would be most impacted by their decisions—the students.
With your support, we were able to show up for our community in big ways. We were able to double-down on our policy and advocacy work, conduct trail blazing research, and demand that student voices are at the table.
Last year reinforced that we cannot do this work alone. To our community, advocates, partners, and friends: Thank you for believing in—and advocating for—the limitless potential of every child.
In 2020, EdAllies strove to facilitate a bold and honest conversation about Minnesota’s most urgent education needs and champion policy that ensures every child has access to a rigorous and engaging education.
We are grateful to the students, parents, educators, and advocates who partnered with us in a trying year and pleased to share what we accomplished together.
Organizational Shifts: New Leadership and Capacity Building Investment
When we’re at our best, we’re able to fight for students.
Leading EdAllies’ Next Chapter
After serving as EdAllies’ Senior Policy Director for three years, in April of 2020, Josh Crosson stepped up as Executive Director. With a clear vision and commitment to the mission, Josh is leading the organization into its next bold chapter.
After working alongside Josh for the last six years, I can say that there’s no better fit for EdAllies’ next leader. Josh’s commitment to partnerships in the community, his leadership at the Capitol, and the utmost respect from his teammates demonstrate that Josh is the right person to lead EdAllies into its next phase of serving children. — Holly Kragthorpe, EdAllies Board Chair
Increasing our Mission-Meeting Capacity through Fundraising
EdAllies welcomed Daniel Hodges as Development Manager, filling a new role on the team. With over 10 years of experience as a nonprofit professional and extensive fundraising experience, Daniel manages EdAllies’ individual and institutional giving, increasing our capacity to meet our mission and pushing the team to think holistically about building stewards within the communities we serve.
Doubling Down on Policy Efforts
We made a crucial investment to increase our capacity, allowing us to dig deeper into the issues impacting students by adding two new faces to our policy team.
In December, our search process led to Matt Shaver’s hiring as Policy Director and Jenifer Loon as Senior Policy Fellow—and they hit the ground running in the new year. Bringing perspectives from both the classroom and the Capitol, their talent, experience, and passion make them the allies students need in this critical year for education policy. They are helping connect the dots between what’s happening in the classroom and how decisions are made at the highest levels, ensuring student and family voices ground every step of the work, and building strong, action-oriented coalitions with key partners.
Shifting the Conversation: Putting the Needs of Students at the Center
Because it’s time to empower our community with the information they need to advocate for change.
Closing the Rigorous Coursework Gap for Minnesota’s Students of Color
In Minnesota, the vast majority of high school students plan to attend college right after graduation. But for too many students, there is a disconnect between aspirations and reality. What happens after students leave our preK-12 system is a direct outcome of the opportunities and supports they’ve been given along the way. We simply cannot improve college success or career readiness unless we address inequities in our preK-12 system.
The report examines opportunities to advance college and career readiness for Minnesota students, focusing on students of color and Native American students. Explore our findings—grounded in insights from dozens of stakeholders at state agencies, nonprofits, service cooperatives, districts, schools, and community organizations, along with research and best practices from around the country. Then, read our policy recommendations for school leaders and policymakers.
COVID-19 placed students, families, educators, and school administrators in uncharted territory. To help our community understand how Minnesota schools approached this new reality and to elevate needs and best practices as they made plans for the new school year, EdAllies analyzed the distance learning plans of 61 Minnesota districts and 30 charter schools—honing in on those with the largest low-income student population. We found some promising practices and innovations, but there were also many areas where schools are falling short for their students. Our findings helped families, policymakers, students, and educators get a better understanding of what best practices we should replicate and where students need more help.
Preparing Minnesota’s Teachers for Student Success
EdAllies believes our state Standards of Effective Practice, which define the common set of knowledge and skills all teacher candidates must learn in their preparation programs, should reflect what is most critical in the classroom—particularly as our teachers are serving an increasingly diverse student body. We surveyed and spoke with more than 50 Minnesota educators (all of whom completed teacher prep), reviewed national research, and explored best practices in other states. Based on our findings, EdAllies published a brief—10 Things All Teacher Candidates Should Learn in Teacher Prep—in February of 2020.
The brief outlines why Minnesota should incorporate these 10 areas when revamping the Standards of Effective Practice. By doing so, Minnesota can take an important step toward ensuring future teachers bring the skills and competencies most critical to student success.
EdAllies’ Monthly Research Rundown continues to add to the education equity conversation by lifting up and sharing recent and relevant research. Research Director Krista Kaput summarizes key findings from across the nation to help inform policymaking in Minnesota. Check out our research archives.
We knew that back-to-school would look different than ever before. With each district making a unique learning plan, EdAllies created a tool to help parents navigate their school district’s plan and determine if their approach meets the mark for their students. Then, we published it in four languages. Explore the tool.
We believe that families and communities should have a seat at the policy table. Yet too often, Minnesota’s confusing policymaking process makes it hard to understand what’s happening with education policy change. In 2020, we published our second biannual Legislative Scorecard to increase transparency and ensure that education decision-making doesn’t stay behind closed doors. Explore the scorecard.
Shifting Education Policy: Centering Students in Education Policy and Practice
Student voices should be at the center of education conversations, informing the work of adults and systems.
Centering Students in the State’s Response to COVID-19
As the COVID-19 health crisis hit, Minnesota’s leaders reacted quickly to address the needs of the rapidly changing education landscape. However, as policymakers began making decisions, we noticed a critical group’s needs were missing from the conversation at the Capitol—students. It was unacceptable, so EdAllies stepped in. Michelle Koffa, EdAllies Policy Manager, delivered testimony to drive home the question that was getting lost in the fray: What are we doing to address the needs of students?
From access to dependable internet and technology for online learning, to support for students with disabilities and English Learners, EdAllies knew what families needed from legislators—because we asked them. Then, we brought their voices and concerns to the decision-making table, provided research-based recommendations, and started the ball rolling for lawmakers to take action.
A Call to Action for Racial Justice in Education
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, conversations on racial justice have moved front and center. Given Minnesota’s startling opportunity and achievement gaps, it’s well beyond time to address systemic oppression in schools. While racial equity in education is a foundational strategy to ensuring all kids, especially kids of color, receive an excellent education, we knew that this moment provided a critical opportunity to call on policymakers to start dismantling the inequitable policy foundations on which our preK-12 institutions are built and reimagine a better system designed with historically underserved students at the center.
From addressing unfair discipline practices to recruiting and retaining teachers of color to improving literacy, EdAllies worked to champion policies that will drive meaningful change for students of color, and Minnesota’s decision-makers seemed to finally be listening.
Students need a voice in conversations about education practices and policymaking, always. No time in recent memory has been more urgent than during the onset of dramatic changes and challenges they faced in life and learning brought on by the COVID-19 health crisis. Our Education at a Distance blog series gave students the opportunity to tell their stories and uncover where our communities needed to lean in and raise the bar.
Students like Arabella shared about the complex reality of distance learning—the harms suffered alongside unexpected opportunities.
Two passionate student advocates and sisters, Mylazia and Kovonna, reveal that even though much has changed because of distance learning, some of the same challenges students have always faced persist, like bullying.
A core element of our work is getting out in the community to share what we know about education policy debates and helping those who will be impacted connect to the policy process. In 2020, we were proud of the students who raised their voices directly, including Olivia, Ari, and Cee-Cee. After their teacher, an EdVoices contributor, invited us to present to her class on the policy process, these students were fired up and ready to speak out—and they did just that by testifying before the House Education Policy committee on their experience with student discipline.
Watch their moving testimony on unfair discipline practices here
Shifting the Paradigm: Reinforcing the Need for Change through Research and Resources
Minnesota students are counting on us to take action, so every child can succeed.
Prioritizing the Needs of Students in the CARES Act COVID Relief Aid
In April of 2020, in anticipation of Minnesota’s implementation of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, EdAllies, along with a coalition of partner organizations, appealed to Governor Walz to use the nearly $185 million in aid to achieve equitable outcomes for Minnesota’s students. Not just for the moment, but for the future. As vulnerable populations of students continued to face unmet needs, we knew it was critical that Minnesota be judicious in considering how the use of these funds would address the needs of students and how we might be able to concentrate dollars to the communities that need the most. We worked to provide recommendations for the use of this emergency aid on behalf of Minnesota’s students, which were to prioritize equity, seek stakeholder input and oversight, provide guidance to school leaders, and ensure good governance by our state’s agencies.
As families demand options and expanded opportunities to achieve a rigorous, culturally relevant education, adults remain caught up in abstract debates that obscure urgent student needs. EdAllies worked to set the record straight on the role of and need for parent choice and pushed back against proposals that would undermine strategies that are working for kids. So, when former St. Paul representative John Lesch voiced his intention to put a moratorium on new charter schools and threatened the growth of current charter schools—a policy that would be detrimental to the over 40,000 charter school students and the countless others who hope to attend high-quality schools of choice—we organized.
EdAllies brought together a coalition of students, educators, parents, school leaders, and community stakeholders to respond. We held a rally during Rep. Lesch’s townhall in the bitter cold and gave the mic to parents and students who voiced concern over local and national efforts to close their schools. The rally provided these students and community members a platform to share their stories about the impact of high-quality schools of choice in their lives. They were heard loud and clear. As a result, Rep. Lesch reconsidered and moved away from the issue.
Banning Pre-K Suspensions
Pre-K suspension statistics are startling. Our youngest learners are three times more likely to be dismissed than K-12 students, and a disproportionate number are children of color and Indigenous. As part of our mission-driven work to fight for racial justice in Minnesota schools, EdAllies worked in coalition with community partners to demand a stop to this practice—raising public awareness and demanding action from legislators.
Before the Senate adjourned, the Legislature passed HF33—a small education omnibus bill that eliminated suspensions for 3- and 4-year-olds, only allowing expulsions under rare circumstances after other disciplinary interventions have been exhausted. This law will help keep our youngest learners from entering the school-to-prison pipeline—a huge first step toward making needed changes to unfair and discriminatory school discipline practices.
Defending Licensure Pathways
Minnesota students should never miss out on a great teacher because of arbitrary licensure barriers. Despite major progress to fix a licensure system that the Office of the Legislative Auditor once dubbed “broken,” there have been persistent efforts to roll back to the status quo and eliminate the pathways to licensure our experienced, effective, and diverse educators use.
In 2020, EdAllies worked to organize. We launched an outreach campaign to connect with teachers across the state who hold Tier 1 and 2 licenses, learning more about their diverse experiences and backgrounds, and the supports they need to grow in the profession. We learned that, even a few years in, many educators are still working to understand the new tiered system, and we developed resources to help them navigate it. These efforts laid the groundwork for efforts to defend the system that we now know is working to help diversify Minnesota’s teacher workforce.
In an uncertain year, EdAllies worked hard to ensure a strong, sustainable position to continue our mission. We worked to diversify our funders to surpass our board-approved budget and received the SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan, which was forgiven in 2020. We were also able to save on expenses as we pivoted to more virtual advocacy and programming. All of this enables us to re-invest in the mission going forward, and maintain robust programming in an ever-shifting funding landscape.
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Our Financial Supporters
Foundations and Corporations
F.R. Bigelow Foundation
Douglass Brandenborg Family Foundation
The Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation
General Mills Foundation
Great MN Schools
The Joyce Foundation
The Minneapolis Foundation
Mortenson Family Foundation
Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children
Individuals and Family Funds
Craig J. Alexander Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation
The Julie and Doug Baker, Jr. Foundation
The Brown Family Foundation
Laura Clyne Medley
Becky and Paul Erdahl
Gunderson Family Foundation of The Minneapolis Foundation
Chris and Susan Israelson
Dick and Joyce H. McFarland Family Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation
Michael J. O’Connell of The Minneapolis Foundation
Piper Family Fund II of The Minneapolis Foundation
Remele Family Fund
Daniel and Stacy Sellers
Karen and Dick Sellers
Jill and Richard Stever-Zeitlin
Ben and Mary Whitney Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation
* Individual donor list includes donations made to EdAllies during the 2020 fiscal year, January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020.
Our Team & Supporters
Capitol Pathways Intern
Managing Director of Strategy and Operations