Achievement and Integration Program

Questions and Answers on Achievement and Integration during Distance Learning

May 7, 2020

Over the past few weeks, many of you have contacted us with questions about managing your district’s Achievement and Integration (A&I) programs during distance learning. We’re posting this document to respond to frequently asked questions about distance learning and related changes that impact A&I. Our intent in providing this information is to support your continued efforts to reduce academic disparities and increase racial and economic integration through the strategies in your A&I plan.

Please continue sending your questions and concerns to individual A&I staff or to the A&I email. We’ll respond to your questions directly and update this guidance document as needed.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Given the need for distance learning and public health concerns, how can my district continue to implement our A&I strategies? Our plan includes some professional learning experiences for staff as well as courses or activities for students.

  • Even though research shows that integration outcomes are best realized when students work together in person, it makes sense to implement your integration strategy via distance learning during a pandemic in order to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. Think of how you can bring together students of different racial and economic backgrounds using distance learning options.
  • Were your district’s A&I strategies incorporated into your district’s distance learning plan? Is it possible to deliver them via distance learning? For general distance-learning guidance, refer to the Minnesota Distance Teaching and Learning Implementation Guidance.
  • MDE’s Student Instruction COVID-19 Resources includes extensive guidance on content area-specific distance learning strategies. For example, if an A&I strategy is more focused on addressing an academic disparity rather than on facilitating positive relationships between students of different racial and economic backgrounds, consider working with students on an experiential activity. Have students work on projects individually. Then meet virtually to share what they did and learned.
  • You do not need to amend your A&I plan to implement an approved strategy via distance learning.
  • Contact MDE’s A&I staff to help you think through how to implement specific A&I strategies via distance and e-learning. For more on cross-district integration strategies, see below.

What if we no longer have the capacity to implement each of our A&I strategies while implementing our distance learning plan?

  • Based on your district’s circumstances—availability of staffing, resources, shifting priorities for families and students—it’s possible there aren’t viable options for implementing each of your A&I strategies while your district continues to implement its distance learning plan. That is a realistic outcome given all the changes you navigated as you’ve transitioned to distance learning and responded to public health concerns.
  • When you submit your annual A&I progress report, we will ask you to let us know which of your A&I strategies you were unable to run during distance learning. This guidance document will continue to be updated with more details on the A&I progress report.
  • If you do not expend all A&I funds obligated for strategies you no longer have the capacity to implement during the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, there will be no impact on the amount of fiscal year (FY) 2020 aid your district is eligible to receive.

My district was going to run an integration program with our partnering A&I districts. This is how we’re meeting the requirement to partner on cross-district integration strategies. What if social distancing guidelines remain in place and our students can’t attend school programs in person? Or we don’t feel that it’s safe to provide onsite instruction? How do I meet this core program requirement for A&I?

If your district is scheduled to implement cross-district integration activities with partnering A&I districts when distance learning plans are still being implemented or when social distancing is in the best interest of maintaining health and safety for all, think through the options listed below.

  1. Has your district already implemented cross-district strategies with your A&I partnering districts during the 2019-20 school year? If so, you’ve met that A&I requirement and aren’t obligated to implement additional integration strategies if the current situation presents barriers to implementing them as intended.
  2. Are you able to deliver your cross-district integration strategy via distance learning? According to research, integration outcomes are best realized by bringing students together to learn from and work with each other in person. But during this pandemic, you should consider using distance learning strategies to bring together students from your partnering A&I districts. Doing so could provide students with an enrichment opportunity outside the usual school year, time to practice distance learning in a more relaxed environment, and a chance to get to know students from racial and ethnic backgrounds different from their own—the purpose of integration strategies.
  3. MDE’s A&I staff can help you think through ideas for implementing integration strategies via distance and e-learning. Refer also to the Student Instruction COVID-19 Resources for distance-learning guidance.
  4. Based on your district’s circumstances and those of your partnering district(s)—availability of staffing, resources, shifting priorities—it’s possible there aren’t any viable options for implementing your cross-district integration strategy. That is a realistic outcome given all the changes you’ve navigated as you’ve shifted to distance learning.
  5. If there are no viable options for implementing integration activities for students, consider using the salary that was encumbered for staff to facilitate integration activities for some professional learning on school integration or effective integration strategies. The A&I website will be updated to include integration research, reading, and reports. Your staff could collaborate with colleagues from your partner A&I districts on a virtual professional learning experience to learn more about school integration.

If I don’t use all the A&I funds approved for my district for this fiscal year, will my district receive less A&I revenue during the 2020-21 school year?

  • No, your district will not receive less aid in the following fiscal year. If you don’t use all the FY 2020 A&I revenue you were approved for, your FY 2021 aid calculations will not be effected. Your district’s annual A&I aid estimates are based on funding formulas included in legislation. Those funding formulas do not use expenditures of A&I revenue from prior years as part of a district’s aid calculation. Those formulas are included in Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.862, subdivisions 1 and 2.
  • For FY 2021 only, there may be A&I strategies that you can fund at a higher level than you’d originally intended using funds that you’d obligated for strategies you can no longer implement. If your FY 2021 budget has already been approved, work with your A&I staff at MDE after July 1 to decide if your FY 2021 budget should be amended before adjusting those costs.
  • This guidance will be updated with any changes that may impact FY 2021 A&I budgets.

My district already implemented our cross-district integration strategies with our partnering A&I districts. How do I communicate this to MDE?

You don’t need to do anything different to update MDE on your cross-district integration activities for the 2019-20 school year. As in this past, this information will be included in two annual reports your district sends to MDE: your district’s Actual Expenditures report and your district’s Annual A&I Progress Report.

We’ll be updating this guidance with information on submitting your Annual A&I Progress Report this fall.

If we want to change our A&I plan or budget for the coming school year due to distance learning and public safety concerns, what is the process we need to use? When should we make and submit those changes?

A&I plan goals, strategies, or indicators may be changed for the 2020-21 school year based on your district’s changing needs and priorities. FY 2021 budgets may be amended to reflect those changes. Take some time to assess student needs and to amend your plan and budget when you know which changes will best help you improve student outcomes and increase integration in the coming year.

MDE A&I staff are currently reviewing new plans and FY 2021 budgets. Follow the steps below for the scenario that applies to your district:

  • The plan or budget your district submitted to MDE this spring have not been reviewed yet. Send your revised plan or budget to MDE’s integration mailbox. You will know your plan and budget have been reviewed if an MDE staff member has already emailed you to say changes are needed or these documents can be approved as submitted.
  • The plan and budget your district submitted to MDE this spring have already been reviewed. Work with MDE after July 1 to make plan or budget changes for the coming school year. You’ll know if your plan and budget have been reviewed if you received an email asking for changes or stating your plan or budget can be approved as submitted. This is the same process we’ve used to communicate about A&I plan and budget reviews in the past. If you’ve already received an email that your plan or budget has been reviewed, MDE staff will work with you on plan and budget changes after July 1.

Talk through possible budget changes with an MDE A&I staff member before you start revising it for distance learning costs since not all costs may not be covered with A&I revenue. For information on fund transfers, see MDE’s Guidance on Transfer of Funds.

Here’s a list of what needs to be in A&I plans. Here are the requirements for A&I budgets. These are the criteria MDE staff use to review new and revised plans and budgets.

We are still unsure which of our A&I strategies we will be able to implement moving forward and whether our goals or budget will also need to change. Do you recommend sending you what we would like to see happen for the 2020-21 school year and then adjusting the plan and budget if we cannot implement our strategies?

Your plans and budgets should reflect the conditions you’d like to create for students by increasing integration and reducing academic disparities. If you realize that you may not be able to implement some of the strategies in your current plan, or that costs for implementing those strategies need to be adjusted, you should revise and submit your plan or budget to MDE.

You may wait until the school year has started before revising your plan and budget, or revise them sooner.

Follow the steps above to submit plan and budget revisions. When you submit them to MDE will be based on whether your FY 2021 budget has already been reviewed.

A&I strategies should address current student needs and priorities for reducing academic disparities and increasing integration in ways that align with the purpose of the program and meet plan requirements.