Students need more than business-as-usual after years of disruption.
Why This Matters for MN Students
Minnesota students have faced unprecedented disruption due to the pandemic. Study after study affirms that these disruptions—from closures to staff shortages—are exacerbating existing opportunity and achievement gaps and taking a toll on students’ mental health. Unless we act, the impact—unfinished learning, lack of engagement, declines in social-emotional wellness—will have lifelong impacts on our kids, particularly for low-income learners, students of color, English Learners, and students with disabilities.
State, district, and school leaders must work through how to respond to students’ emerging and evolving needs—thinking strategically about how to invest critical one-time federal funding and improving their recovery plans as they build evidence around what works—while addressing long-term barriers facing our most underserved students.
It is critical to:
- Address immediate needs, such as substitute teacher shortages, supporting qualified candidates to enter these roles, and removing unnecessary barriers to entry.
- Identify and replicate what’s working. Across the country, schools and districts are trying hundreds of strategies to catch kids up.
- Minnesota’s leaders should support districts in identifying the most promising practices that meet local needs and support the students most deeply impacted by the pandemic.
- Districts should take a nimble approach, assessing and modifying plans at regular intervals, creating feedback loops with families and measuring progress to understand what’s working.
- Policymakers must continue to invest in whole-child supports that are working, including intensive tutoring, universal school meals, and other supplemental programs.
- Ensure a strong framework for future online learning. While most students are back in buildings, schools will continue to use online models to meet ad hoc needs and accommodate students who prefer online learning. Moving out of emergency mode, Minnesota should be proactive, putting appropriate guardrails into state policy so that student needs remain at the center for emerging online delivery models, while also making it a priority to close the digital divide.
- Measure student progress and intervene at key benchmarks—looking at kindergarten readiness, proficient reading by 3rd-grade, and whether 9th-grade students are on track to graduate high school. We can improve our assessment systems—weaving these indicators into state policy frameworks and ensuring timely reporting to families and educators—then track progress and drive investment where it’s needed most.
- Make Minnesota’s K-12 tax credit work better for low-income families. Use the tax system to help families pay for extra education expenses, from tutoring to afterschool and summer enrichment to technology. Family expenses for education materials have risen with much of the learning happening at home, yet tax credits aimed at helping families pay for these costs have not changed. We can and should give families the resources they need to give their kids access to education.