BY STEVE LUND
Brainerd School District
As part of the education funding bill passed during the 2011 legislative session, the world of incentive-based funding was introduced to public education in Minnesota. Known as “Literacy Incentive Aid,” this newly established funding mechanism provides additional funding to public school districts based on the academic growth of young readers. Beginning with the upcoming 2012-13 school year, under this funding structure, public school districts can receive up to nearly 10 percent more funding for their third and fourth grade students based on their reading skills and growth.
How does the state determine student growth? The measures used to calculate the additional revenue potential are nothing new. In existence for well over a decade, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are the state tests that help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards. This new funding structure now takes this information and combines the measurement and accountability features with financial incentive. In other words, if a district can show a certain degree of reading growth and achievement in third and fourth grade students, the district will receive additional funding to sustain and expand that growth.
What is most exciting about this new source of incentive-based funding for public school districts in Minnesota is that it reinforces an already long-held belief in Brainerd Public Schools — that student performance and success is a top priority. For Brainerd, the funding may be new, but the intent behind its creation is not. Specifically, Brainerd Public Schools has recognized that reading skills developed early are critical in ensuring a student’s success throughout their education. In fact, the average MCA reading results for third grade students in Brainerd for the last three years, one of the measures now used to calculate the additional incentive funding, are 16 percent higher than the state average. 16 percent!
As we work each year to balance our budget, we continue to thoroughly assess and maintain our investments in the programs designed for teaching our youngest readers. By introducing this incentive aid, our legislators are keeping student achievement at the forefront of state-level conversations while tangibly recognizing the important role reading plays in a student’s education and life. For Brainerd, the funding will help sustain the supportive programs our elementary students need and deserve.
Is the act of directly linking additional funding to student test results likely to be a topic of debate? Sure. What we cannot debate, however, are the proven results of the pride and dedication that exists in Brainerd Public Schools, ensuring every student achieves his or her highest potential.
Steve Lund is the Director of Business Services at Brainerd School District 181.