Education policy folks and Minnesota’s high school juniors can stop holding their breath about this year’s math graduation test: with the stroke of his pen, Governor Tim Pawlenty has turned the once-high-stakes test into a dead letter. A compromise solution was reached earlier this year by the Governor, and both houses of the state legislature, that would permit students to retake the test three times, prior to graduation. Pass or fail, though, no-one is barred from graduation. Legislators were concerned that, since the test results come back a few weeks into summer vacation, high school Juniors wouldn’t have much time to take remedial courses and retake the test before they have to start studying for finals, or graduate.
According to the Strib’s Emily Johns, though, the real reason is that the test is too hard. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Achievement Gap, Education, Education Policy, GRAD test, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota, Testing, Tim Pawlenty
Norman Draper’s piece on the $1.75 billion education accounting shift, in today’s Star Tribune, points out that while Pawlenty may claim the authority to shift payments without legislative approval, this is by no means accepted.
What, wondered [Peggy Ingison, Minneapolis Public Schools' Chief Financial Officer], happens if the Legislature decides not to approve such shifts?
“It puts us out on a limb,” she said. A big funding shift, she said, merely compounds the problem of schools getting no new money while facing increased costs due to inflation.
Most of the Capitol press corps seems to accept that Pawlenty will get his way somehow, particularly since there will probably be no special legislative session this year.
Filed under: Minneapolis, Budget Crisis, Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, Unallotments
It’s a victory for anti-bullying advocates: the Safe Schools for All Bill passed the Minnesota House by a wide margin (95-39), after passing the Senate earlier this month. The bill creates 14 protected categories, and directs school districts to create policies that will help teachers and administrators intervene when a student is bullied for, among other things, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic status, or a disability. Current legislation only directs schools to intervene in cases of religious, sexual, or racial harassment.
As Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reports, the debate boiled down to an argument over whether “special categories” were needed to protect LGBT students, disabled students, or students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, offered an amendment to strike those categories from the bill. “One group does not rise above another,” he said. The amendment failed on a voice vote.
Davnie argued for the importance of the categories. “[Students] need and deserve to see themselves reflected in school policies. The child hears, ‘if somebody is bothering me, the adults in the school will help me,’” he said.
Rep. Rob Eastlund, R-Isanti, said, “there’s a politically motivated effort because passing legislation feels good. We don’t need to list out a long list of special interest groups.”
In recent days, other conservatives have railed against the bill, saying it “promotes homosexual behavior.”
Filed under: Minnesota, "Safe Schools for All" Bill, Education, LGBT, Minnesota
They sit in conference committees so we don’t have to. I admit, I’m a bit of a wonk (My weekend reading will be pouring over a big chunk of data from Minneapolis Public Schools that accompanied the administration’s original proposal), but even I try to avoid legislative sessions like the plague. Fortunately, there’s Minnesota Budget Bites, who’ve got a very readable rundown on the three competing E-12 budget proposals from the House, Senate, and Governor Tim Pawlenty, that are being hashed out in conference committee this week and next. Some highlights:
- Use of federal stimulus dollars
- Dollar figures for several reform innitiatives, including the House’s New Minnesota Miracle ($0 — they just want to put the funding formula into law, so it can slowly be phased in from 2014 on), and T-Paw’s expansion of the Q-Comp pay-for-performance program and financial rewards for districts that raise students’ test scores ($91 million for the latter, an unnamed combo of state and increased local contributions for the former)
- Local property tax relief
Filed under: Minnesota, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, Mindy Greiling, Minnesota, Q Comp, Stimulating Stimuli, Tim Pawlenty
Some innitial thoughts on the St Paul Public Schools’ new downsizing plan (pdf) to be presented at tonight’s school board meeting. Background available here and here.
1) Similar to Minneapolis’ downsizing plan, this sticks a lot of the richer white neighborhoods off in their own quadrant. both the Mac-Groveland and Highland Park neighborhoods are in the same region. Both are very white, and median family income is in the $69-79,000 range. Will this impact district politics by focusing privileged voices around a few schools?
2) This may do an even worse job of solving structural budget issues than the Minneapolis Public Schools plan did. I can’t find a good breakdown of the SPPS deficit on their website right now, but the total savings listed in the PowerPoint is only $2.2 million from the busing reductions and $2.4 million from closing three elementary schools, folding Humboldt Jr. High into the Sr. High, and rep-purposing one closed elementary building, possibly for administrative space. That’s a long way from the district’s $25 million shortfall from Fiscal Year 2008-2009 to FY ’09-10. (By way of comparison: around $9 million of Minneapolis schools’ $28 million budget shortfall is caused by declining enrollment)
3) I’m impressed by the relative openness of the decision-making process: input requested, priorities formulated, and decisions based off of a ranking/grading system that’s put up in the presentation. This is a far cry from the way Minneapolis carried out their planning — many parents I’ve spoken with complained that they couldn’t see how parents’ input had influenced the development of scenarios.
4) Why the hell did SPPS join Q-Comp? Why did the SPPS administration propose to join the Q-Comp program? This is a program that has been losing school districts, and was recently canned as not ready to be expanded, because there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it was an effective teacher-development tool. The St Paul Federation of teachers will have to approve this aspect of the plan in the coming round of contract negotiations.
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Minnesota, Q Comp, St Paul Public Schools
Only in financial times like these can you hear things in school board meetings that make your blood run cold, or at least a bit nippy. Like an additional $10 million in cuts to the school budget, on top of a $25 million shortfall. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Minnesota, St Paul
- Another school district goes to the 4-day week to save money, without cutting staff. (Bemidji Pioneer)
- A propos of the anti-bullying before the legislature (that comes up for a vote soon), an Ohio family is suing their son’s school district for failing to stop the homophobic bullying that led their 17-year-old to shoot himself in the head in 2006. The family is seeking to force the district to institute an anti-bullying program. (Minnesota Independent) Via TowleRoad comes the story of a sixth-grader in Springfield, MA, who hung himself after school officials failed to address the bullying or its emotional impact. (Springfield Republican)
- St Paul Public School students have won their fight to ban candy cigarettes, saying they promotes youth smoking. (Star-Tribune)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar is holding hearings around the state about NCLB reform (see the bottom of the page).
- As the announcement of this year’s Broad Prize winner draws near, the folks at Change.org remind us of the prestigious education prize’s sordid history. (Change.org)
- An editorial in today’s NY Times accuses the federal government of leaving too many loopholes in the education portion of the stimulus package, and the Fordham Foundation’s education blog reviews the extremely fuzzy metrics governing how states can spend this money. (NY Times / Flypaper / Ed.gov)
- From Minnesota’s own Liberian Journal, a neat (but short) essay on the reforms needed in war-torn Liberia’s education system.
Today’s recipe: vegan Carrot-Parsnip Soup (Poor Girl Gourmet). I hope the next time I make this, I don’t get almost-struck by lightening like that!
Filed under: Minnesota, National, St Paul, "Safe Schools for All" Bill, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, LGBT, Minnesota, News, St Paul Public Schools, Stimulating Stimuli
Today, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. First, the bad:
- MPR points out that between them, Minnesota public and charter public schools have around $1 billion in reserves, an unprecedented amount. Some state legislators argue that this means they can handle a deferred payments from the state, or a cut in the education budget as legislators try to plug the $4.5 billion hole in the state budget. (MPR)
- Why is this bad? because some schools, like the St. Louis County schools, in the Iron Range, are so desperate for funds, they’re closing schools. This re-organization, though, might mean the district will loose up to $2.1 million in sparsity aid (given to schools that draw students from a very wide area). “We can envision no scenario that would keep the district out of statutory operating debt without sparsity aid,” said a consultant helping the district. (Mesabi Daily News / Timberjay Newspapers)
- Meanwhile, St. Cloud schools are considering raising taxes to fill their deficit, and Mendota Heights school leaders are taking a pay freeze, and schools in Michigan are skeptical that federal stimulus money – intended to help schools stave off budget crises – will help, or even be accepted by most schools because it has so many strings attached. (St Cloud Times / Pioneer Press / Adrian Daily Telegram)
Now, the good news!
- The federal government is considering simplifying the colelge student financial aid process. (MN Daily)
- Fargo-Moorehead students are back in class after spending two weeks manning the levees on the Red River (Associated Press)
- Many metro-area districts are echoing Minneapolis Schools’ complaints that current integration efforts like the West Metro Education Program are not working. This may sound like a death-knell for these integration efforts, but it also means there is an energy that can be channeled for reform and progress.
Lastly, China considders reforms to their higher education system (BeijingReview.com.cn), and the NY Times’ Room for Debate blog gives five common food myths.
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, National, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, Minnesota, Segregation, Stimulating Stimuli
Happy Thursday? Mostly budget news today:
- “Budget work is starting in earnest,” says MPR as the state Senate and House square off over their respective education budgets. The Senate leadership fully pulled the wraps off its proposal yesterday, with a net cut of around 3% — 7% cut across the board, with a little over 3% restored by federal stimulus money. The House leadership isn’t too happy. (MPR/St Paul Legal Ledger)
- MTN has video of one of the Minneapolis schools forums on how the district might restructure opperations to close their budget deficit. (MTN, via TC Daily Planet)
- St Paul teens organize and advocate to end the sale of candy cigarettes in the city.
- Lastly, I forgot to include this development in yesterday’s item about suburban segregation. Plans are moving ahead in Lakeville to establish magnet programs that would draw minority students from around Lakeville and from neighboring districts to create more integrated schools.
Today’s recipe: My obsessoin with kale continues: Kale, Butternut Squash, and Pancetta Pie!
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, National, St Paul, Achievement Gap, Arne Duncan, Education, Education Funding, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota, News, Restructuring, Segregation, St Paul, Stimulating Stimuli
The Washburn Millers
(Photo: MPS/Washburn High)
- First, a big congratulations to Millers Boys’ Basketball team from Minneapolis’ Washburn High School! At the Target Center this weekend, they beat out Mankato West, 58-45, to win the state AAA high school basketball tournament. To get there, they beat out St Paul’s Johnson High School, Grand Rapids High School, and the Academy of Holy Angels, a catholic school in Richfield. This is their first championship win since 1994. An interesting tidbit — they were coached by Reggie Perkins, a former Harlem Globetrotter.
Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota, National, St Paul, Charter Schools, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, Food, Hamas, LGBT, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota, News, Religion, Somali, Stimulating Stimuli, Washburn High School