The archive below summarizes content from the state's application for Lead State Partner in 2011.
Education Commissioner: Brenda Cassellius
Primary Point of Contact: John Olson — Science Specialist
Partner Organizations: SciMathMN; Minnesota STEM Network; Minnesota Science Teachers Association; Minnesota P–20 Education Partnership; Minnesota High Tech Association; Science Museum of Minnesota; Minnesota State Colleges and University System; University of Minnesota; Minnesota Academy of Science; Rochester Area Math Science Partnership;
Background: Minnesota requires all students to complete three courses in science including biology and either physics or chemistry in order to graduate from public high school. Minnesota State Science Standards are grade specific for K–8, and banded for 9–12 with specific content strands in physical science, earth and space science, and life science with cross-cutting strands in the nature of science and engineering. In addition, Minnesota has course specific standards for both the physics and chemistry course for graduation. Minnesota students are assessed using the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) which assess science in grades 5, 8, and an end of course exam after completion of a life science course in high school. In 2009, Minnesota’s science standards were revised and aligned to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the National Science Education Standards, and the Standards for Technological Literacy. To do so, the Minnesota Department of Education compiled a team of scientists, engineers, business representatives, K–12 teachers, and higher education professionals to work together on this initiative. Due to this recent experience Minnesota is prepared to share and use this knowledge to assist with the development and implementation of the NGSS. Since the science standards revision was so recent, the next revision period is not scheduled to occur until 2017–18. This commissioner does not have the authority to change the revision timeline, however legislation could be introduced that would grant permission to do so.
Commitment: Minnesota has shown a commitment to standards based learning through strong state standards, state-wide professional development and publication of the online Frameworks for Minnesota Mathematics and Science Standards (www.scimathmn.org/stemtc). Minnesota adopted the Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts, but did not adopted the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics because the Minnesota Mathematics Standards are not up for revision until 2015, and the Commissioner does not have the ability to revise earlier than scheduled without legislative action. This could be an issue with the NGSS, however as mentioned above, with legislative action the Commissioner would be able to adopt earlier than scheduled. Minnesota has shown a high commitment to science through its recent standards revision process and in its numerous partnerships.
STEM Involvement: Minnesota is a largely diverse state, both in terms of urbanicity and demographics. It also has a significant achievement gap, especially in mathematics and science. Reducing the achievement gap in STEM is one of Minnesota’s current priorities, and a collaboration lead by the Minnesota P-20 Education Partnership is devising a plan to do so. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has established a STEM specialist position and an environmental and outdoor education position which are intended to support teachers and schools in incorporating integrated STEM instruction and developing STEM based initiatives.
MDE has worked with SciMathMN to develop an online resource for the state science standards which includes definitions, student learning misconceptions, professional development, sample assessment items, and more. This online resource, the Frameworks for Minnesota Mathematics and Science Standards (www.scimathmn.org/stemtc), also provides resources to support the Mathematics and Science Academy and the nine regional teacher centers. The Mathematics and Science Teacher Academy, funded by federal Mathematics and Science Partnership funding, have allowed for statewide professional development for the recently adopted science standards, and this network will be a resource to support the NGSS.
Also, collaborating with SciMathMN, the MDE developed the MN STEM Network, whose purpose is to create an alliance with individuals and organizations throughout Minnesota who are interested in building a partnership surrounding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is anticipated that this Network will do the following: assist with the creation of regional STEM hubs throughout the state; recognize districts that are in need of additional STEM resources; share best practices and innovations throughout the Network; further the value of STEM disciplines to students, parents, and the community; and create an inventory of STEM resources and learning opportunities.
Including Career and Technical Education in STEM, Minnesota developed a State Plan under the 2006 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in which recipients of funds established formal consortia of high schools and colleges. Twenty six consortia were formed; each with at least one secondary school district and at least one Perkins-eligible college, and each has developed a single plan to govern career and technical education programming beginning no later than grade 11 and continuing for at least two years beyond high school. Under the Perkins Act, Minnesota has made identification and development of six Programs of Study for each consortium. Of these, STEM education is being addressed in trade and industrial/technology education, agriculture, and health sciences through the integration of mathematics and science instruction.
Alliances and Infrastructure: Minnesota has formed key partnerships that have assisted with numerous initiatives throughout the state, specifically STEM education development. The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has held thirteen STEM forums throughout the state, with over 1,000 attendees, in order to provide education on current initiatives, engage community and business leaders, and establish new partnerships. Later in 2008, the Minnesota State Colleges and University System collaborated with MDE and MHTA to hold eight initial regional STEM summits across the state in order to further interest and collaboration on STEM subjects. These summits were attended by over 3,500 students, parents, and teachers, and over 150 businesses, higher education institutions, and community organizations served as participants, providing exhibits, opportunities, and information. These summits continue throughout the state with two to three being held annually. In conjunction with the summits, MDE worked with Thomson Reuters and the Minnesota High Tech Association to develop “getSTEM,” an online clearinghouse portal, to connect students and teachers with business loan resources. Clearinghouse opportunities include professional development, job shadowing, internships and best practices locally and across the state. To date, there are 2,000 registered users with hundreds of connections made annually.
This sharing of information has been important in expanding STEM opportunities in Minnesota. Additional partnerships, such as the above mentioned SciMathMN and the Rochester Area Math Science Partnership, are also working to help further science education statewide. The Minnesota Science Teachers Association will also serve as a valuable resource and partner in promoting science education and partnerships as well. These alliances and partnerships will provide valuable support throughout the state in the NGSS effort.