February 18, 2009 • 7:00 am
(Originally published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, 2/18/09)
Faced with a growing – and seemingly permanent – gap between revenues and finances, Minneapolis Public Schools is organizing meetings where parents and teachers are invited to give input into the district’s future. It’s not news that school politics and policy in the Twin Cities are less transparent than a brick wall, with precious few people trying to shed light on the goings-on in either district. But not everyone at one of Thursday night’s three community meetings was convinced MPS is trying to shed its old, top-down, bureaucratic ways as it looks to reorganize and shrink the number of elementary, middle, and high schools, and the complicated and expensive busing system.
“Community engagement is just an obligation for the district to fulfill,” said community activist and Ramsey Fine Arts Center parent Ralph Crowder, who was disappointed that the Northside meeting did not include a broader discussion of why poor students and students of color were not succeeding in the school system.
“People have a lot of suspicion that the community opinion might not sway what happens,” said David Allen, a contractor who works with the district’s Student Placement Center. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Achievement Gap, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Kate Towle, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Public Schools, Restructuring, Shameless Self-Promotion
February 13, 2009 • 9:25 am
I spent yesterday evening at one of MPS’ community meetings on the Northside (see previous post), about re-structuring the numbers and types of schools, as well as the current busing system, in order to close a growing structural deficit in district finances, caused by declining enrollment. District officials there seemed honest and earnest, but I think the best quotes of the night may belong to activist Ralph Crowder:
“Community Engagement is nothing but an obligation the district has to fulfill.”
…and to a Henry High parent whose name I think I forgot to write down:
“It was advertised well to people who’re really involved in the schools, but not to the average, working-class parent.” (there were around 30 people there, I counted 4 members of the District Parent Advisory Council, a voluntary organization of parent leaders)
All of the various options participants were asked to discuss were extremely short on data — what kinds of cost savings would they generate, how the district would ensure all schools were good schools if the district went over to all-neighborhood schools, etc. Moreover, in the process outlined by Deputy Superintendent Bernadiea Johnson, this is one small part– there are a lot of other parts of the bureaucracy that will have input, and the School Board will be presented with one plan by the administration by March 24th.
Kate Towle, a big-time parent activist I spoke with yesterday before the meeting summed up her feelings: “There’s going to be a big push nationally for more autonomous schools, and more direct community involvement. It just remains to be seen what way [the district bureaucracy] is going to fall apart.”
More details to come in tomorrow’s Daily Planet…
Filed under: Minneapolis, Achievement Gap, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, Governance, Kate Towle, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Ralph Crowder
February 11, 2009 • 7:00 am
Pow! the U of M is laying off the administrative office that oversees grad school programs. No word yet on how much the U will save, how many will be laid off, and what kinds of work they did.
Ka-Bam! You, too can have a say in how Minneapolis Public Schools deals with the surely-enormous gap in funding for its 2009-2010 budget. MPS has scheduled three community meetings for Thursday. We’ll see if it’s more than an informational meeting, though…
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Achievement Gap, Community Involvement, Education, Education Funding, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota, U of M
February 10, 2009 • 4:36 pm
Photo: Flickr/user "Wappas"
It’s good news for Teach For America’s plans to move into Minneapolis: A new study commissioned by the US Department of Education argues that teachers who are still completing their teaching credentials while they teach aren’t any better or any worse than teachers who follow the traditional route of completing their coursework before stepping into a classroom. In the past, TFA and other groups have raised eyebrows – and attracted significant criticism from the likes of the Obama campaign’s top education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond – by putting their teachers on the front lines after relatively minimal training. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, National, Achievement Gap, Arne Duncan, Education, Education Policy, Education Reform, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, National Issues, News, Race, Teach for America, Teacher Quality
January 27, 2009 • 12:48 am
Image courtesy of EcoEducation
“For Kathy, it was never good enough to do a litter pickup,” Mara Coyle said. “She would never let you say ‘I’ve got this down pat.’ Sure, she’d celebrate your success, but then, in a quiet way, she would push you to do something more.”
This attitude, friends, family, and co-workers said, was what propelled Kathy Kinzig’s efforts to build EcoEducation from a shoestring non-profit when she took the Executive Director’s job in 1997, into a $400,000-a-year organization serving 17 charter and public schools in Minneapolis and St Paul “with a waiting list as long as your arm,” EcoEducation Board Member Jane Prince said.
Kinzig died of bone cancer in December at age 43. Her family, friends, and former co-workers held a memorial service at the Lake Como Pavilion this past Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, St Paul, Battle Creek Middle School, EcoEducation, Education, Environment, Kathy Kinzig, Minneapolis, Minnesota, St Paul
January 9, 2009 • 4:18 pm
On Monday, I sat down with Minneapolis Board of Education member Jill Davis, to talk about President-elect Obama’s promised $10 billion in federal aid for Early Childhood and Family Education. Davis was elected to the Board in November, and brings with her long experience working with young children and families as a child psychologist and administrator with Anoka County’s Children and Family Services.
Much of Obama’s proposed aid would be distributed to local governments and school districts to support the setting up of Early Childhood (Prekindergarten and Kindergarten) and Family Education programs. Numerous studies have pointed to the importance of quality early education in determining a child’s future success in school and life.
Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, National, Early Chilldhood Education, Education, Education Funding, Education Policy, Education Reform, Federal Education Policy, Jill Davis, Minneapolis
December 8, 2008 • 10:14 pm
(Published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, 12/8/08)
Last year, Minneapolis Public Schools pushed the restart button on two of their seven high schools. It was a dramatic move, designed to restore parents’ confidence after years of sinking test scores and declining enrollments. Students and teachers alike greeted it with tears and anger. After these so-called “fresh starts,” at least one school—Edison High School—is going full steam ahead with a high-energy restructuring plan.
Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Edison High School, Education, Fresh Start, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, NCLB, Public Schools, Restructuring