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S.F. No. 4057 - Innovation Research Zone Program
Author: Senator Carla J. Nelson
Prepared By: Ann Marie Lewis, Senate Counsel (651/296-5301)
Date: March 16, 2020


Section 1. Innovation Research Zone Program.

Subdivision 1. Establishment; requirements for participation; research zone plans. Paragraph (a) Establishes the innovation research zone program to improve student and school outcomes by creating new and different models of education.

Paragraph (b) Allows one or more school districts or charter schools to form an innovation research zone partnership. An innovation research zone plan must be collaboratively developed with the school’s instructional staff.

Paragraph (c) Requires the partnership to research and implement innovative programs and models that are based on proposed hypotheses. Examples of research and innovative programs include, but are not limited to:

  1. new models of curriculum, instruction, and formative assessment designed to close the achievement gap;
  2. personalized learning;
  3. the use of competency outcomes;
  4. multidisciplinary, real-world, inquiry-based, and student-directed models designed to make learning more engaging and relevant;
  5. new partnerships between Minnesota secondary schools and other partners located anywhere in the world;
  6. new methods of collaborative leadership models;
  7. new methods of enhancing parental and community involvement in learning;
  8. new models of professional development for educators;
  9. new models in other education programming such as whole child instruction, social-emotional skill development, technology-based or blended learning, parent and community involvement, professional development and mentoring, and models that increase the return on investment;
  10. new models of evaluation, assessment, and accountability using multiple indicators including models that demonstrate alternative ways to validate students’ academic attainment that have predictive validity to the state tests;
  11. improving teacher and principal mentoring and evaluation;
  12. granting a high school diploma to a student who meets the graduation requirements who demonstrates preparation for postsecondary education or a career consistent with the world’s best workforce goals and who meet the following requirements:
      1. completes four years of high school; and
      2. completes at least one year of postsecondary education at a two or four-year college or university through concurrent enrollment, advanced placement, or international baccalaureate courses; or
      3. completes the requirements for a career certification up to the apprenticeship program level, if one is required for that certification;
  13. use of the provisions governing standard adult high school diploma requirements, experiential and applied learning opportunities, and the use of independent study;
  14. use of the provisions of the learning year statute for a student in grade 10, 11, or 12 to participate in career and technical programs after school, on weekends, and during school breaks, and be included in the general education revenue computation;
  15. methods to initiate prevention models to reduce student needs for special education and to reduce teacher time devoted to required special education documentation; or
  16. other innovations as determined by the local boards.

Paragraph (d) An innovation research zone plan must describe:

  1. how the plan will improve student and school outcomes consistent with the world’s best workforce goals;
  2. the role of each partner in the innovation research zone;
  3. the research methodologies used for each proposed action in the plan;
  4. the exemptions from statutes and rules in subdivision 2 that the partnership will use;
  5. a description of how teachers and other education staff from the affected school sites will be included in the planning and implementation process;
  6. a detailed description of expected outcomes and graduation standards;
  7. a timeline for implementing the plan and assessing the outcomes; and
  8. how results of the plan will be disseminated.

Paragraph (e) Allows the partnership to extend membership to other partners with unanimous approval of the initial research zone partners and approval by the commissioner.

Paragraph (f) Requires a school district or charter school participating in a partnership to receive all revenue and maintain its taxation authority as it would without participating a partnership. The school district and charter school partners remained organized and governed by their respective boards and remain subject to employee agreements.

Paragraph (g) Allows the partnership to submit its plan to the commissioner. Requires the commissioner to approve or reject the plan after receiving the recommendation of the innovation research zone advisory panel. Allows a rejected plan to be resubmitted.

Subdivision 2. Exemptions from law and rules. Paragraph (a) Exempts an innovation research zone partner with an approved plan from any law or rule from which a district-created, site-governed school is exempt. Exempts a charter school or district from the following:

  1. online learning program approval if the school district or charter schools offers a course or program online combined with direct access to a teacher for a portion of that course or program;
  2. restriction on when extended learning time revenue may be used for a student who meets the criteria of the graduation incentives program;
  3. any required hours of instruction in any class or subject area for a student who is meeting all competencies consistent with the graduation standards described in the plan;
  4. the provisions relating to rigorous course of study waiver for which the board may delegate the responsibility to the principal or site leadership team; and
  5. the provisions relating to experimental and flexible school year programs.

Paragraph (b) Allows a school district or charter school to use general fund money to accomplish the provisions of its plan.

Paragraph (c) Exemptions under this subdivision are not exemptions from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, required academic standards, and graduation requirements.

Subdivision 3. Innovation research zone advisory panel. (a) Directs the commissioner to establish and convene an advisory panel to review the submitted plans.

Paragraph (b) The panel is composed of nine members with one member appointed by each of the following organizations: Educators for Excellence, Education Minnesota, Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, Minnesota Elementary Principals Association, Minnesota Association of School Administrators, Minnesota School Boards Association, Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, and the Office of Higher Education. The commissioner must appoint one member with expertise in evaluation and research.

Subdivision 4. Commissioner approval. (a) Directs the commissioner to approve, not approve, or request added information from an applicant based on the recommendations of the advisory panel. Requires the commissioner to grant an exemption that is included in the plan, if the plan is approved. Allows the commissioner to approve six plans in the seven-count metropolitan area and six plans in greater Minnesota. Allows a partnership the opportunity to remediate if they fail to implement the plan as described in the application.

Paragraph (b) Directs the commissioner to publish a list of the exemptions granted to a school district or charter school on the department’s website.

Subdivision 5. Project evaluation, dissemination, and report to legislature. Requires the commissioner, at least once every two years, to analyze each zone’s progress in meeting the objectives of the partnerships plan. The commissioner must summarize and categorize innovation research zone plans and submit a report to the legislature by February 1 of each odd-numbered year.

Subdivision 6. Existing innovation research zone partnerships. Allows a partnership with an approved plan to submit an amendment to their plan and is not required to go through the approval process.

Effective Date: Makes the section effective immediately.

Section 2. Appropriations. Appropriates a blank amount for planning and implementation grants to innovation research zone partnerships.

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