From the Superintendent: Celebration of Excellence, Hmong American Day, MCAs, and the Minnesota Legislature

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Dear Colleagues,

What a week it has been! I had the honor of speaking at the Hmong American Day celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the first Hmong settlers arriving in Saint Paul. SPPS also held the annual Celebration of Excellence recognizing our top graduates. Both events filled my spirit with great joy as it showed the opportunities that a premier education affords all our students and community members. While the past week offered these great experiences, we also had continuing issues with the MCAs.

This has not been a good year for standardized testing in Minnesota. I have heard from teachers, principals and parents about the frustration of dealing with glitches, disruptions and suspensions in online testing. These issues upset students, increase test-taking anxiety, and make the entire testing process counterproductive to student learning and confidence.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius called the multiple testing disruptions "simply unacceptable and unfair.” I would add that, in a district the size of SPPS, it’s also extremely difficult to absorb these delays and still keep students focused and on track. The difficulties are not just in the logistics of rescheduling. The emotional impact on students and teachers is real.

Please hear me when I say, again, that testing is only one way we measure the results of our hard work with students. No single test can fully measure the complete abilities of our students or the efforts of our teachers. No matter one’s opinion on the usefulness of the MCAs, one thing is for certain: this year has hardly been “business as usual.”

Online testing issues began last fall when the contractor Pearson failed to inform school districts of several technical requirements for using their product. After a smoother start to the spring MCAs -- for which SPPS purchased 66 new servers dedicated to testing alone -- Pearson began experiencing “intentional disruptions by an outside source.” In other words, their system was hacked. The Minnesota Department of Education will be working with an independent, outside party to further investigate the disruptions and the impact on student scores.

In addition to working through testing disruptions, we have been busy monitoring the developments at the Capitol. This weekend Senator Bakk and Representative Daudt agreed to a $400 million education spending target. It is more than the House and Senate originally put forth but still less than the Governor’s proposal. The Governor stated that he will not accept any proposal that does not meet his demands of a $550 million target with universal half-day preK. The session is set to end Monday at midnight. If a deal is not struck, the legislature will likely go into a special session.

As we enter the final stages of this school year, I want to say thank you to all our teachers and staff for your resiliency during these uncertain times. I know it has not been easy on you. Through it all, though, you keep on doing what you all do best: providing a premier education for all our students.

Your very proud Superintendent,

Silva Signature

 

Valeria S. Silva