Why did the legislature remove third-grade literacy as a goal?

There is no doubt that the 2023 legislative session was “transformational.” I have written here about the numerous new education mandates that the DFL-controlled legislature passed and what they mean for Minnesota students, families, and educators.

But there were also things removed — such as the goal to support third-grade students in achieving grade-level literacy. As of spring 2023 test results, less than half (47.1 percent) of third-grade students statewide are reading at grade level as measured by the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA).

The World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) law, developed in 2013, is meant to help school districts and charter schools in Minnesota enhance student achievement and, as the name implies, create the world’s best workforce.

School boards that govern districts and charter schools are tasked with adopting and maintaining a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan (called the World’s Best Workforce plan) to improve learning. The plan has to include at least one goal in each of the following areas: how a district/school site will meet school readiness goals, close the academic achievement gap, have all students attain career and college readiness before graduating from high school, and have all students graduate from high school.

The third-grade reading literacy goal was included in these plans for the last time during the 2022-23 school year.

Every year, each school board publishes an annual WBWF report and holds an annual public meeting to go over the goals set and whether they were met, not met, or are on track to be met.

Measures to determine progress on the goals must include student performance on the MCAs, high school graduation rates, career and college readiness, and the size of the academic achievement gap. A summary of each school site’s progress is sent to the Minnesota Department of Education where they are compiled into a report that goes to the legislature.

To help support school boards, state law requires each school board to establish an advisory committee. This committee participates in the strategic planning process and makes recommendations to the school board concerning rigorous academic standards and student achievement goals and measures. “Whenever possible, parents and other community residents must comprise at least two-thirds of advisory committee members.” Ask your local school board about how to participate if you’re interested.

Curious on your district’s WBWF goal results? The 2024 World’s Best Workforce Legislative Report — which is the last to include third-grade literacy goals — was recently published and can be viewed here.

Given the importance of third-grade literacy (the legislature passed a statewide overhaul of literacy education in 2023), why remove it as a goal, particularly given the years-long challenge this has been for the state?