Minnesota Senate approves bills to help students, parents, and teachers recover from Covid-19 learning loss

The Minnesota Senate on Monday approved a series of bills to support kids, families, and teachers as they attempt to recover from learning loss suffered during Gov. Walz’s Covid-19-related school closures. 

The bills would provide an accurate measure of how Covid-19 has affected student progress by requiring all students to be administered annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs); give students an opportunity to regain lost ground by pausing the creation and implementation of new educational standards; address teacher shortages by opening the door to more qualified substitutes; and ease budget pressures by granting local schools more flexibility.

“At this point, we are all familiar with the pain and hardship that school closures have caused students,” said Education Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes). “The Senate is taking the smart steps necessary to help students catch their breath and recover from some of the worst side effects of Covid.”

  • Senate File 628 will guarantee that families, teachers, and policymakers have an accurate measure of student regression from Covid-19 by requiring the Department of Education (MDE) to administer statewide MCAs during the spring of 2021, regardless of whether students are participating in distance, hybrid, or in-person learning. MCAs are the state’s only objective, statewide measure of student progress in core academic subjects. The assessments were canceled last year. 
  • Senate File 438 allows students, families, teachers, and MDE to focus all of their effort and energy on recovering from Covid-19 by suspending until 2023 the development or implementation of any new state-mandated academic standards. 
  • Senate File 710 grants school districts with the authority, for this school year only, to redirect any reserved or restricted revenue to another purpose. The relaxed restrictions will give school districts more flexibility to manage potential budget pressures.
  • Senate File 819 addresses the shortage of substitute teachers for Minnesota schools by widening the pool of qualified applicants for “short-call” substitute teachers. Teacher shortages have been an issue, particularly for rural communities, even prior to the onset of Covid-19. The gap has been exacerbated by quarantines and other health-related absences, threatening schools’ ability to offer in-person instruction.

There is widespread agreement about the impact distance learning is having on students. UNICEF has warned of a ‘lost generation’ and found school closures are ineffective; the Sahan Journal found the pandemic has had a “devastating” impact on communities of color in St. Paul Public Schools; NPR reported on the mental health crisis that has intensified due to the pandemic; and CBS reported on a U.K. education watchdog that found kids have seriously regressed due to Covid-19.