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Education Dept. steering more help to low-performing schools

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Minnesota will steer some of the additional education money lawmakers approved last spring toward schools where student performance is lagging.

Specifically, the Pioneer Press reports the Education Department plans to open three new centers around the state where specialists will be sent to local schools to provide teacher training and spread best practices.

Currently there are three Regional Centers of Excellence, which help schools where test scores are not so excellent. The Pioneer Press reports the centers work with the bottom 25 percent of the state's schools as measured by reading and math scores, improvement in those scores, graduation rates, and progress in closing the achievement gap.

The state plans to spend $2 million over two years developing the new centers in Marshall, Fergus Falls, and Mountain Iron. The existing ones are based in Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. The Education Department's announcement says the centers provide a combination of training, technical help, and ongoing support in schools.

The centers were created last year as part of the new system Minnesota developed when it gained a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. As KARE 11 reported then, Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius referred to No Child Left Behind as "a failed system that doled out punitive labels and didn't tell the whole story about schools."

The Pioneer Press story mentions that Minnesota will have to reapply for its waiver from that system next year. The Education Department says in the first year of the state's new system, more than 70 percent of the schools targeted for extra help showed improvement.

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