Officials with the U.S. Department of Education announced that Minnesota and four other states had been awarded four-year waivers to No Child Left Behind. 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.

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

The waiver also established state Regional Centers of Excellence, teams of content specialists who work with struggling schools.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius lauded the progress that Minnesota schools have made under the waiver, particularly in closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

Minnesota education officials have pledged to cut the achievement gap in half by 2017.

Kim McGuire


South Washington, Minnetonka, Hopkins are tops in school lunch

According to Pittsburgh-based website Niche’s 2015 rankings, South Washington County ranked 48th among school districts nationwide for the quality of its lunch program — good for third in the state behind the Minnetonka and Hopkins 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.”

Overall, with academics, extracurriculars and other measures included, Minnetonka finished first in the state overall. South Washington County was ranked 11th and, despite having a better lunch program, Hopkins finished 15th.

Anthony Lonetree


Teacher of the Year 10 finalists named

Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union, came one step closer this week to naming the Minnesota Teacher of the Year with the release of the names of the 10 finalists.

The top teacher will be named on May 3.

The 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year finalists are:

• Erik Brandt, Harding High School, St. Paul, English and IB program coordinator, grades 9-12

• Melinda Christianson, Underwood School, Underwood, English, grades 10-12

• Stephen Dombrosk, North High School, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, world history, grade 10

• Amy Hewett-Olatunde, LEAP High School, St. Paul, ESL, grades 9-12

• Lanka Liyanapathiranage, Woodbury Middle School, South Washington County, language arts, grade 7

• Kathryn Oberg, Otsego Elementary School, Elk River, elementary, grade 1

• Terrence Price, Mastery Charter School, Minneapolis, elementary, grade 3

• Ann St. Clair, Sonnesyn Elementary School, Robbinsdale, ELL, grades kindergarten-2

• Rachel Steil, Stillwater Area High School, Stillwater, English, grades 10-12

• Meggie Trenda, Edina High School, Edina, Spanish, grades 10-12

Kim McGuire