Education reforms needed early in student’s life

This week’s release of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments revealed a familiar tale for Minnesota schools. School districts throughout the state are not making improvement in closing the achievement gap in school testing.

“Frustrating,” Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius said in a statement.

Marshall, however, is not feeling the same frustration. The state report showed Marshall Public Schools was 2.1 percent above the state average in reading, 1.6 percent above the state average in math and 4 percent above the state average in science. Superintendent Scott Monson considers that a big improvement from last year when the district was below the state average. Monson commended teachers and students for the big improvement.

This leads to two big questions: How does Marshall Public Schools continue its upswing in testing results? And how will other school districts in the state start making improvements in their testing?

The answers to both questions may begin with the announcement Gov. Mark Dayton made last week. On Twitter he bragged that “22,500 more Minnesota children will be heading to preschool this upcoming school year thanks funding secured by Gov. Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith.” The Legislature approved the funding during the last session.

According to the governor, 6,100 4 year olds will be attending free, voluntary, school-based prekindergarten programs across Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Education released a list of 109 school districts and charter schools that will receive voluntary pre-K funding. Dayton’s announcement claims 16,400 young learners will attend early learning programs in Minnesota this year.

Marshall Public Schools will receive $311,662 out of the overall $18,612,758. The funding was far less than what Dayton was requesting and Marshall probably received less than what Monson would have like. However, it’s a step in the right direction and the extra funding is expected to affect 52 young learners in Marshall.

“Because its free, that will benefit families in our community who may not otherwise be able to afford preschool,” Monson told the Independent.

Some Minnesota lawmakers and residents would argue throwing more money at education will not automatically improve education in the state. However, it’s important where that extra money is being used.

The Minnesota Department of education recognizes that the early childhood years from birth to the start of kindergarten are an important time of rapid growth and learning. The Center for Public Education reports that many educators are discovering that reform efforts in K-12 education systems are sometimes too little too late. Its research indicates by the time children reach kindergarten, they are already far behind their peers in skills and measures of school readiness.

The center also says these education gaps tend to be much more difficult and costly to close as children advance through elementary, middle and high school.

If school districts in Minnesota want to see improvement in testing, more has to be done in the early stages of a student’s development.