The Minnesota Department of Education
in partnership with
the Minnesota Association of School Administrators
welcomes you to the annual
MDE Back to School Conference:
Back to Better
August 11-12. 2020 • This is a virtual event.
Back to school has always been an exciting time, full of newness and hope for a great year of learning ahead. But of course this year is different. This year we are tasked with designing a system that not only ensures that every student in the state of Minnesota receives an equitable education and has equal access to learning and instruction, but also that our students and staff will be safe among the challenges of a pandemic. We know that many of our students and staff are additionally challenged by economic hardship and social isolation. Reopening school is critical during the pandemic. Schools are an essential part of community life and the wellbeing of students and families, and education supports health by building life skills, social-emotional awareness, and community engagement. For months we have talked about getting “back to normal.” Join your colleagues for the MDE Back to School Conference and learn, share, and envision how, together, we will get Back to Better!
To view a session’s handouts and (eventually) video archive, click the session title.
Schedule of Presentations
Superintendent’s Back to School Conference
Tuesday, August 11
8:30 – 10 am General Session
Deb Henton, Executive Director, Minnesota Association of School Administrators
Mary Cathryn Ricker, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Education
Heather Mueller, Deputy Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Education
Anchoring our Work during COVID-19
Susan Klammer, Epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, School Liaison for the COVID-19 Response
10:00 am – 10:15 am Break
10:15 am – 11:15 am Concurrent Sessions
School Year 20-21 Planning for Students with Disabilities: Overview on Health and Education Programming, Due Process, Funding Issues and Guidance for Delivering Direct Student Support Services
Presenters: Robyn Widley, MDE, Director, Special Education; Denise Herrmann, MDH, Child Health Consultant, Child and Teen Checkups; Marikay Canaga Litzau, MDE, Director, Compliance and Assistance; Sara Winter, MDE, Supervisor, Compliance and Assistance; Paul Ferrin, MDE, Supervisor, Special Education Funding; Tom Delaney, MDE, Supervisor, Special Education
Description: This session will provide an overview of the most current guidelines for health, education, due process and funding issues to be considered by districts in their planning for students with disabilities in Kindergarten through grade 12 as they return for school year 20-21.
Presenters: Nancy Riestenberg, Restorative Practices Specialist, School Climate Center; Rebecca McCammon, Restorative Practices Program Coordinator, St. Paul Public Schools, Office of School Support
Implementing restorative practices in a school building and district provides ongoing community building for all members of the school community, practices for addressing hiccups and challenges, and attention to creating safe and equitable learning environments, in person and online. Join us to share your questions and insights about community building and needs from this extraordinary year of learning.
Presenters: Mike Brown, Early Learning Services Education Specialist; June Reineke, Early Learning Services Education Specialist; Elizabeth Vaught, School Support Educator Development and Evaluation
Educational leaders are being called to action daily in new and challenging ways as they work to create birth-to grade twelve systems that offer students continuity and pathways during uncertain times. MDE staff will overview the birth-grade three (P3) framework with its focus on developing relationships and practices that create alignment and coherence between early learning and K-12 educational systems. The session will introduce and overview newly produced materials focused on: building coherent comprehensive P3 systems, leading staff development, and ensuring successful transitions between systems, specifically focused on issues related to COVID-19. Discussion opportunities will center on P3 systems, learning trajectories and progressions, and successful strategies used by P3 districts across the state.
Presenter(s): Andre Prahl, Director of Agency Finance; Michael Diedrich, ESEA Policy Specialist
This session provides information on several different CARES Act funding streams for education in Minnesota, including the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds, and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
11:15 am – 11:30 am Break
11:30 am – 12:30 pm Concurrent Sessions
Presenters: Leah Larson, State Libraries LSTA Grant Coordinator; Edina Public Schools Media Staff - Steve Buettner, Sean Beaverson, Sara Swenson, Mike Walker
Description: Edina Public Schools hit the ground running for distance learning. Collaboration and strong leadership from District Media and Technology Services and the Teaching and Learning Department, as well as the intentional inclusion of teacher leader TOSAs and building based media specialists, resulted in a successful transition from face-to-face learning to online learning. In this session, learn about our planning, roles, and how we connected with students, families, and teachers during these historic times.
Examples from the field: Comprehensive School Mental Health Quality Improvement Initiatives in All Three Scenarios
Presenter: Lisa Hoogheem, Student Support Specialist
Description: This session will provide an overview of the core features of comprehensive school mental health and discuss how to assess quality in comprehensive school mental health using the School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) System. There will also be a panel discussion with staff from districts who have participated in the school mental health collaborative improvement and innovation network working to improve the quality of their district’s comprehensive school mental health system.
Presenters: MDE - Carolyn Cherry, Supervisor, Results and Improvement-Special Education; Eric Kloos, Assistant Director, Special Education; and Osseo Area Schools - Jan Bitzer, Student Services Coordinator; Kate Emmons, Director of Student Services; Cory McIntyre, Superintendent
Description: While implementation science research informs us that fully implementing and sustaining an evidence-based practice can take years, district administrators and staff often feel pressure to implement practices rapidly, expecting a ‘quick fix’ that will improve students outcomes. In this sense of urgency, steps are often lost, which may lead to poor decision making. To mitigate the effects of typical implementation issues districts face, the Active Implementation Frameworks (AIFs) provide a conceptual structure for understanding the systems and processes that must be in place for students to benefit from an evidence-based practice. However, concepts are only useful when put into action.
The development of district-state partnerships through Minnesota’s State Systemic Improvement Plan has provided opportunities for applied learning and understanding into how the AIFs and related strategies are used to moderate the impact of competing district priorities for increased implementation success. Through a district and state lens, participants will hear the challenges and successes in the use of the AIFs and related tools by district and state teams to implement Check & Connect with fidelity to improve graduation outcomes for American Indian and Black students with disabilities. Specifically, session attendees will learn about a) the intensive state supports provided to ensure local capacity is being built to sustain use of Check & Connect, b) strategies that have been most successful in supporting local agencies, and c) barriers that have hindered progress and how they have been addressed.
Responding to COVID and Serving Families and Communities through the Full-Service Community Schools Model
Presenters: Dennis Duffy, School Improvement Supervisor; Jackie Blagsvedt, School Improvement Program Specialist; June Reineke, Early Learning Services Education Specialist; Julie Ruzek, Coordinator of Family and Community Partnerships, Rochester Public Schools
Description of Session: With so many students and their families facing hardships, schools must examine how they can lead to connect students and families with the services and resources they need to be successful. This session will provide an outline of the Full-Service Community School model. Practitioners will share their experience in implementing the model.
12:30 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch Break
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Concurrent Sessions
Presenter: Jennifer Dugan, Director, Statewide Student Assessment and Data Analytics
Description: Assessment is a constant hot-button topic at the district-level because it impacts many avenues a district is concerned with; for example: student experience, accountability, curriculum development and implementation. This is even more of a concern to district personnel now because of the impact of COVID-19 on data related to students’ learning and school experience overall. This session will provide information to superintendents regarding our short term plans for statewide assessment development and implementation, as well as our long-term vision of how assessments can continue to support positive impact and change across Minnesota. We will speak to the assessment division’s role in the state mission for educational equity and how districts can responsibly engage with that mission using assessment.
Presenter: Debra Lukkonen, MDE School Nutrition Program Supervisor
Description: Decisions that impact food service relative to the three learning models will be addressed. Topics will include meal distribution logistics; program operations (menu planning, staffing, staff training, purchasing, equipment needs); health and safety concerns related to food service workers and financial considerations in budget planning. Up to date information on USDA flexibilities and waivers affecting the back-to-school program operations will be shared.
Presenters: Meredith Vadis, Regional Administrator, Metropolitan Council and State Testing Workgroup Lead; Grace Arnold, Deputy Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Commerce
Description: This session will focus on Testing for Staff. We will introduce you to the saliva testing process and how it works and we will walk you through the large testing event process.
Video referenced in the presentation:
Presenters: Ann Mitchell, Principal Leadership, School Support Panelists: Dr. Shawn Harris-Berry, Associate Superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools; Yusuf Abdullah, Principal, Patrick Henry High School; Rachel Udstuen, Superintendent, Spring Grove Public Schools
Description: In this time of uncertainty, our learners have much to teach us about focusing on mission, sharing leadership, and developing agency. We will hear from two districts taking intentional steps to engage learners in planning, decision-making, and community-building. With a learner lens, leaders will be encouraged and inspired to use high-impact learner-centered leadership practices to transform learning communities.
2:00 pm – 2:15 pm Break
2:15 pm — 3:15 pm Concurrent Sessions
Reflecting on Distance Learning to Inform Planning for the Effective Use Technology with Title, IV, Part A
Presenters: Sarah Carter, STEM/Computer Science Specialist/Title IV, Part A Co-Program Specialist Lead; Kate Beesch Title IV, Part A Program Specialist Lead
Description: Title IV Part A program provides districts opportunities for innovation and support for a well-rounded education, safe and healthy programs, and support for technology. This session will provide background on the funding and give participants an opportunity to:
- Reflect on Distance Learning and Effective Use of Technology.
- Understand the purpose of the Title IV, Part A grant program.
- Identify opportunities for the upcoming school year to utilize Title IV, Part A funds to supplement, pilot, or innovate personalized or blended learning options.
- Learn about common approaches to address the Effective Use of Technology.
- Share ideas and collaborate with colleagues related to Distance Learning and the Effective Use of Technology.
Presenters: Irina Vaynerman, Minnesota Department of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner; Dr. Lanise Block, Minnesota Department of Human Rights Education Equity Consultant and Founder/CEO of Sankore Consulting
Description: Facing exacerbated disparities for communities of color and Indigenous communities, students, educators, and communities continue to address challenges related to equity in education. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) has partnered with Dr. Lanise Block to support a cohort of schools that are continuing to tackle equity issues in the classroom. This presentation will discuss early learnings regarding school climate and discipline as schools embark on either in-person, distance learning, or hybrid models. The presenters will also discuss MDHR’s partnership with American Institutes for Research to research and analyze best practices associated with decreased discipline disparities among a cohort of 40+ districts and charters who have entered into settlement agreements with the State.
Presenter: John Gimpl, State Implementation Specialist
Description: Participants will explore what it means to be an MTSS and how this concept covers academic, behavior, social-emotional learning, and health. We will discuss how people from the classroom to the state can ensure they are serving all student needs.
Presenters: Sharon Peck, School Finance Supervisor; Tara Chapa, School Finance Technical Support Specialist; Susan Anderson, Brainerd Public Schools; Sonja Rowland, Bemidji Area Schools; Mark Bjornrud, Schoolcraft Learning Community; Miriam Janechek, PhD, Public Engagement & Outreach | Statewide Student Assessment and Data Analytics
Description: District supervisors often ask what resources are necessary at the district-level for learning the required Ed-Fi technology. This presentation will explain district responsibilities and commitments, the overall process for learning Ed-Fi technology, and provide clear direction, guidance, and resources. Superintendents will come away from the presentation with a clear understanding of district-level responsibilities, time commitments, and benefits from learning Ed-Fi data submission.
Wednesday, August 12
9 am — 10 am Concurrent Sessions
Presenters: Gayra Ostgaard, Data Management Coordinator, Data Analytics; David Reeg, IT Development Supervisor; Sharon Peck, School Finance Supervisor; Tara Chapa, School Finance Ed-Fi Technical Support; Avisia Whiteman, Early Education Research Analyst; Karen Millette Data Analytics Project Manager; Susan Anderson, Brainerd Public Schools; Sonja Rowland; Bemidji Area Schools; Mark Bjornrud; Schoolcraft Learning Community
Description: Ed-Fi technology is a growing part of district responsibilities and this presentation will educate participants about the benefits to districts of learning Ed-Fi. During this session, superintendents will learn how districts are currently benefiting from Ed-Fi, what the current implementation plans are, and the exciting potential Ed-Fi holds for state-level data submissions and reporting. The information provided will help districts understand why Ed-Fi is essential to the future of responsible data submission and reporting and how expanding its use will improve data integrity.
Presenters: Kendra Olsen, Outreach Specialist Statewide Student Assessment and Data; Ann Mitchell, Principal Leadership School Support; Ben Barton, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools; Donna Roper, Director of Research and Evaluation Edina Public Schools; Michael Walker, Director of Black Student Achievement Minneapolis Public Schools; Jessica Town-Gunderson, Director of Teaching and Learning – Princeton Public Schools
Description: To support both the academic and social-emotional development of students, schools and districts have been encouraged to focus on the formative purposes of assessments and assignments, especially in distance learning. This session will offer considerations for choosing and using the right balance of assessment tools for your students and teachers, and structures to support meaningful conversation for using assessment data to close gaps in learning and instruction. Considerations will be shared by a panel of districts who will discuss their plans for implementing assessment and data use this fall to guide teaching and learning.
How to build relational trust and dismantle systems and expectations that divide schools and families
Presenters: Jackie Blagsvedt, School Improvement Program Specialist, Jeanne Dickhausen, Head Start Collaboration Director
Description: We’ve heard from schools who have developed strong relationships with families and community partners that they were prepared to identify and respond to student and family needs during the unprecedented upheaval, inequity and transformations in 2020. We’ve also heard from schools that connecting with families and building relationships is harder now than ever before. This session, rooted in Dr. Karen L. Mapp’s Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, will be an exploration of relational trust, how it can be eroded even with the best intentions, and how to forge and maintain family and community relationships in support of student and school success.
Presenter: Dr. Amy Young, EL Specialist, School Support
Description: This session will present a rubric and school improvement implementation process to increase academic achievement for English learners and other multilingual/multicultural communities in greater Minnesota. Five district examples will be shared from around the state. Participants will explore what worked at the district level to improve outcomes for diverse learners from Latinx, Pacific Islander (Chuukese), Somali, and Karen communities.
10 am — 10:15 am Break
10:15 am — 11:15 am Concurrent Sessions
CDC and MDE assistance in fall school reopening activities after the spring distance learning period due to COVID-19
Presenters: Bobbie Burnham, Assistant Commissioner; Sheila Oehrlein, Supervisor, Youth Development and Health Promotion Team; Margo Chresand, RN, LSN, MPH, MS, Education Specialist; Gail Anderson, MPH, Project Coordinator; Terri Swartout, School Health Coordinator; Mary Thissen-Milder, PhD, Physical Education Consultant; Jeremy Vann, School Health Services Coordinator
Description: In this panel presentation, both national and state resources will be shared to assist local school districts in reopening activities as identified in the fall planning guidance, with emphasis on professional development and technical assistance in the following content areas: assessing current mitigation levels; guidance on PPE; social distancing in all settings including classrooms, during meal times, on buses; physical activity & physical education; SEL and mental health supports for both students and staff; addressing the needs of students with chronic health conditions; assessing COVID-19 and Isolating sick individuals; and more.
Presenters: MDE - Carolyn Cherry, Supervisor, Results and Improvement-Special Education; Eric Kloos, Assistant Director, Special Education; Dan Torrez, Alternative and Preventative Services Specialist, Special Education; UofM - Jana Ferguson, Check & Connect Project Coordinator
Description: As districts and MDE have faced the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to a distance learning model, educators implementing practices to support student learning have had to adjust how to provide services to students while working to do their best to ensure programs are implemented with fidelity. This session will provide participants, through a district and state lens, the opportunity to hear both successes and challenges in implementing practices in a distance learning model. In addition, presenters will address approaches for enhancing equity when implementing practices that support all students, including students with disabilities. The importance of considering Universal Design guidelines when designing distance learning instruction will be discussed and available resources provided.
Presenters: Doug Paulson, Director of Academic Standards and Instruction; Dawn Cameron, Supervisor, Specialty and Technical Innovations, Statewide Assessment; Michael Bowlus, English Learner and Refugee Education Specialist
Description: This session will focus on the academic standard’s revision schedule, implementation timeline, and the resulting updates to Science and Reading MCAs and MTAS responding to questions regarding timing with COVID-19 and requirements. The Minnesota Academic Standards in Physical Education, the Arts, Science, English Language Arts Social Studies, and Mathematics are developed and reviewed on a 10-year schedule developed by the Minnesota Legislature to ensure each K-12 student has access to high-quality content and instruction in all settings. The primary purpose of the standards-based accountability assessments is to measure achievement on the Minnesota Academic Standards, so the tests are designed to be aligned to these standards. Additionally, this session will provide information about updates to Minnesota’s English Language Development (ELD) Standards which serve as roadmap for planning and implementing language instruction and assessment for multilingual learners as they learn academic content.
11:15 am — 11:30 am Break
11:30 am — 12:00 pm General Session Wrap-up
Deb Henton, Executive Director, Minnesota Association of School Administrators