The two sides will meet in a 12-hour negotiation session ahead of a planned strike vote on Monday. Both sides say they hope to work out an agreement and avert a strike.
The graduation rate for all Minnesota students in 2013 was 79.5 percent, up nearly two percentage points over the year before.
Union officials said a move by the school board Tuesday night left them hopeful that teachers and the district could make progress during Thursday's talks and possibly avert a strike.
State education officials say more Minnesota high school students are taking Advanced Placement courses - and qualifying for college credit -- than ever before.
Chris Coleman told lawmakers a strike would keep students out of class after already missing five days of school in January because of cold weather. "To lose a couple months, it would just set us back so much so far."
The numbers come after Minnesota's educators have tried to improve test scores among African American, Latino, Asian and Native American students, with mixed results. Now, three quarters of Minnesota school districts are meeting, or are just a few points shy of meeting, the goals the state has set.
The union and district are working with a state mediator and have been in negotiations since May. Sticking points include teacher pay, caps on class sizes, and staffing levels.
The St. Paul Federation of Teachers has been in contract negotiations with district officials since May. Both sides say they've made progress, but sticking points include teacher compensation, class sizes and the amount of standardized testing done in the district.
Critics of underperforming charter schools say state law isn't tough enough. They're pushing a measure that would flag poor performing charters for closure.
Minnesota has one of the biggest achievement gaps in the country on metrics such as test scores and graduation rates. Some high profile education reform groups have laid some of the blame for the gap on bad teachers, causing tension with teachers unions.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is holding summit in St. Paul Thursday aimed at bringing education reform advocates together with legislators and business leaders to discuss approaches to fix the state's achievement gap between white students and students of color.
Union officials say they're rallying at several schools to raise support for provisions they want to see in their next two-year contract.
The Virginia, Mountain Iron-Buhl, and Eveleth-Gilbert districts want to build and share a new school for grades 7 to 12. The three districts would keep their own school boards and their own sports teams
For working parents finding childcare during these cancellations can be a challenge -- and parents with flexible schedules are running out of ways to keep their kids from going stir-crazy during these long winter days at home.
School district officials say a four-day schedule works well for students and their communities. But Minnesota Department of Education officials would like to see the shortened weeks go the way of the one-room schoolhouse.