Northeast Service Cooperative in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, is home to the Northern Pines Regional Center of Excellence, which is an initiative through the Minnesota Department of Education. There are six Regional Centers located in Thief River Falls, Mountain Iron, Fergus Falls, St. Cloud, Marshall, and Rochester.
Minnesota’s Regional Centers of Excellence deliver a wealth of support and services to schools. Centers are staffed by specialists with a full range of expertise, from math and reading to special education, English language development and data analysis.
Every three years, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) releases a list of Priority and Focus schools. Priority schools are the five percent most persistently low-performing Title I schools. Focus schools are the 10 percent of schools with the largest achievement gaps. The designations, part of Minnesota’s school accountability system, look at students’ scores on state tests, student academic growth from year to year, reduction in achievement gaps, and graduation rates.
Once designated, Priority and Focus schools must create a plan to increase student achievement, but they don’t have to go it alone. They can get help from Minnesota’s Regional Centers of Excellence. They guide and support staff at Priority, Focus and Continuous Improvement schools through the process of needs assessment, building and strengthening leadership teams, and developing continuous improvement plans.