From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Alejandra Matos, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Eden Prairie High School set to open an in-school credit union next fall

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: April 9, 2015 - 4:02 PM

Students at Eden Prairie High School interested in business and marketing will have a chance to hone their skills next fall when a new in-school credit union is set to open.

The west metro district is partnering with the Royal Credit Union (RCU) to open a branch inside the school that will be staffed by students enrolled in busines and marketing intern program who will work under the supervision of RCU staff.

The RCU branch will be designed to function as a credit union and financial education center during the select hours of operation, and as a student community center during non-branch hours. It will feature casual seating, electronic device charging stations for student convenience and an area to conduct visual presentations.

The tellers will also offer financial education presentations and informal tips to help prepare the students for a future in finance.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our school and students,” said High School Principal Conn McCartan. “Our business students will be given a chance to cultivate new career skills and gain tangible experience and exposure to the industry before they leave our high school."

The Royal Credit Union School Site program was established in 1994 and currently operates 27 in-school credit union branches in Wisconsin. The Eden Prairie High School branch will be the seventh student-run credit union to open in the state of Minnesota. 

Three districts land in Top 50 of lunch rankings

Posted by: Anthony Lonetree Updated: April 2, 2015 - 11:59 AM

The Pittsburgh-based website Niche lived up to its name recently by going beyond traditional school district quality measures to shed light on the greatness of school lunch programs.

Academics and extracurricular programs were assessed, too, in the website's national rankings. But it was the South Washington County School District's A+ lunch rating that prompted the district to tout the strong showing in a recent news release.

According to the 2015 Niche rankings, South Washington County ranked 48th among districts nationwide for the quality of its lunch program -- good for third in the state behind the Minnetonka and Hopkins school districts, which placed sixth and 20th nationally.

The ratings are based on student and parent surveys, and on district spending, with the greatest weight given to what parents and students have to say.

At Park High in Cottage Grove, a senior reported: "The new turkey-on-focaccia sandwiches are fantastic and the apples are as juicy as ever."

Not everyone was enamored with the food at East Ridge High in Woodbury, however.

"It's pretty much what you would expect from a school lunch. There were a few things I liked, but I wouldn't call it good," a student said.

In the west metro, a Hopkins High senior put its lunches to a broader test: "I have gone to many college tours and nothing exceeds the lunches provided by Hopkins High School," the student reported. "There are so many options, and there's always 'omelet day' to look forward to."

The Niche website reviews and ranks school districts, schools, colleges, cities and neighborhoods, and got its start in 2002 as The company's database contains records for 13,402 school districts. Of those, 3,868 were ranked for the quality of their lunch programs.

Overall, with academics, extracurriculars and other measures included, South Washington County was ranked 11th among the state's school districts. Despite having a better lunch program, Hopkins finished behind South Washington County in the overall state rankings at 15th.

Minnetonka finished first in the state overall.

Minnesota and four other states awarded new waivers to No Child Left Behind

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: March 31, 2015 - 1:39 PM

As federal lawmakers continue to debate the merits of re-authorizing No Child Left Behind, Minnesota's education leaders picked up some certainty about the next four years with the announcement Monday that the state's waiver has been renewed.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Education announced that Minnesota, North Carolina, Kentucky, New Mexico, and Virginia and been awarded four-year waivers to No Child Left Behind. Forty-three states have been awarded waivers, but Monday marked the first time states had received a four-year renewal.

More are likely to be granted as No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007, continues to be debated. Federal education officials said states need stability now.

“While a strong, bipartisan reauthorization of the law remains our top priority, we want to continue to empower state and district leaders to develop plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We will continue to partner with states to support them through the ESEA flexibility process - starting with these five states.”

First awarded in 2012, Minnesota's waiver established a new accountability system for schools known as the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR) system. For the most part, schools prefer the new rating system over the old one, which branded more than half the school districts in the state as "failures."

The waiver also established state Regional Centers of Excellence, teams of content specialists that work with struggling schools to help them get better.

In a conference call with reporters from across the country, Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius lauded the progress that Minnesota schools have made under the waiver, particularly as it relates to closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

As part of the state's waiver application, Minnesota education officials pledged to cut the achievement gap in half by 2017.

"I'm happy to report that we are well on our way to meeting that goal with 59 percent of school district meeting their targets for math and 65 percent for reading," Cassellius said.

Governor Mark Dayton heralded the waiver renewal, saying it would allow the state's progress to continue.

"Today's waivers are tribute to the outstanding leadership of Commissioner Brenda Cassellius who has championed our state's education reform initiatives," Dayton said. "We have more work ahead to close the achievement gaps and to ensure that all students receive the educations they need to succeed."

Duncan and state education leaders called on Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and put in place a new federal law that makes investments in high-poverty schools, gives struggling schools extra support and addresses funding inequities.


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