Building Strong Readers in Minnesota

PreK–3rd Grade Policies That Support Children’s Literacy Development
Policy Paper
Sept. 10, 2015

Minnesota is one of a handful of states that is often recognized as a leader in public education, and for good reason. Students in the state score well above average in reading on national and international tests. The state has also been at the forefront of education reform, including the creation of charter schools. Still Minnesota continues to have significant achievement gaps between children from middle- and low-income families and between white and black students, as well as for English learners. How can the state help improve literacy outcomes for all students?

A new report from the Early Education Initiative at New America, Building Strong Readers in Minnesota, examines state policies and local initiatives that aim to give children a strong start and offers recommendations to help ensure more students are moving up the learning staircase. Abbie Lieberman and Laura Bornfreund review Minnesota's:

  • Unique approach to pre-K;
  • Quality Rating and Improvement System;
  • Transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten;
  • Administrator and educator preparation and development;
  • Efforts to align early learning providers and elementary schools;
  • Alignment between pre-K and kindergarten with later grades; and
  • Supports for dual language learners.

The authors offer several recommendations to help strengthen the state’s PreK-3rd grade efforts to build strong readers:

  1. Rethink pre-K funding and quality. Remodel the Early Learning Scholarships to reach more children and better meet the needs of at-risk families, and provide the supports and funding necessary to encourage elementary schools to offer pre-K programs.
  2. Minimize the overlap in grades between educator licenses and communicate the value of the early childhood education license to principals and prospective teachers.
  3. Strengthen elementary school principals’ training requirements around early education.
  4. Require consistent assessments or allow districts to choose from a short list of approved assessments for students in kindergarten through second grade.
  5. Expand the use of strong assessments and data systems that span the PreK-3rd grade continuum to improve teachers’ and school leaders’ practice.

View the full report here.