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New Initiatives in Place for Students Heading Back to School

Updated: 09/02/2014 9:05 AM
Created: 09/01/2014 12:30 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart

Many students across the state will head back to school Tuesday, and children and parents might notice new changes this year.

Here are some new initiatives in place this year:

All-Day Kindergarten

All-day kindergarten is going to be free, and schools will see many more students than they have in past years. Legislators set aside $134 million just for kindergarten, and districts are making changes to accommodate more young students.

In the past, many districts required parents to pay tuition for all-day kindergarten, which meant some families opted for free half-day programs.

Bullying Bill

Minnesota's controversial anti-bullying bill, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, will go into effect this school year. It requires schools to track and investigate bullying situations and give more training on how to prevent it in the first place.

It also defines new protected classes of students that goes beyond race and sexual orientation to include physical appearance and academic status.

The act was passed in this year's legislative session, replacing a 37-word anti-bullying law that was considered by some to be one of the weakest in the U.S.

The changes come nearly three years after the Anoka-Hennepin School District was accused in a lawsuit of failing to protect a student from being harassed, causing the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene.

Nutrition

Some students may go to school and notice their favorite snack is no longer an option for them.

Nutritional standards that take effect this fall call for less sodium and more whole grains and fruits and vegetables. The requirements, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also call for healthier snacks and drinks in school vending machines and snack bars.

The requirement is part of a government effort to make school lunches and breakfasts healthier. Championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014.

Teacher Evaluations

Most of Minnesota's school districts are ready to implement new teacher evaluations this fall.

In 2011, lawmakers revamped Minnesota's teacher evaluation law to overhaul the old system, in which some teachers went a decade or longer without receiving proper feedback. Under the new law, new teachers will be given formal evaluations each year for three years.

Testing

Taking the ACT college admission test will now be a graduation requirement for all Minnesota students, with 11th graders required to take the test this coming school year. 

In the past, students were required to take an exit exam and achieve a certain score in order to graduate, but that test isn't recognized by colleges. Moving forward, the ACT will replace the old exit exam.

Minnesota will have practice exams for 8th and 10th grade students in the fall, with required ACT testing for juniors in the spring.

AP Photo/The Jacksonville Daily News, John Althouse

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