Minneapolis schools open with reform debate raging

  • Article by: Steve Brandt , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 11:31 PM

Achievement gap in Minnesota classrooms provides a target for education reform efforts.

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dflleftAug. 25, 13 9:48 PM

WITH A 43% graduation rate, this is a failed district, even below Chicago and LA. Raise your hand if you believe the teacher unions even care about kids.

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jegelkrout2Aug. 25, 13 9:59 PM

Today's reformer is tomorrow's entrenched interest.

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rlwr51Aug. 25, 1310:19 PM

Statistics show that the "achievement gap" directly mirrors the attendance gap.

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rlwr51Aug. 25, 1310:20 PM

This is nothing more than a move to privatize education and put that education money into someones pocket.

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asdfasdfAug. 25, 1310:50 PM

Let's see.... The one data point that most directly correlates with teacher efficacy is years of experience. But lets go ahead and blame everything on those darn experienced teachers. Its fine to not like unions. Its fine to say you want for profit schools. Its not fine to perpetuate the myth that its old out of touch lazy teachers that are ruining education. Actually the exact opposite is true. because 3 out of 5 teachers leave the field within 5 years for the private sector (must be that teachings just to easy) that we have a lack of veteran teachers to work with our kids.

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LynnellAug. 25, 1310:51 PM

I've been active in the local ed reform movement for five or so years. With the exception of Better Ed, almost all of the education reformers mentioned in this article are die-hard Democrats. In Minneapolis, this is not a left vs. right battle. It's a fight within the DFL family. In Minneapolis, almost 70 percent of the district's students are low-income children of color. Less 50 percent are reading or doing math at grade level; less than 40 percent graduate from high school on-time; only 16 percent had ACT scores that were "proficient"for being on-track to go to college. Trust me, if only 16 percent of white kids were testing well on ACTs…..if less than 40 percent of white kids were graduating on time, we would have already re-designed our schools to work better for students. We'd have changed the staff, the school hours, the curriculum, whatever it took because if less than 50 percent of white kids were reading at grade level, this would be a big-time crisis. But when it's kids of color who are failing en masse, we're told that our schools can't do much to turn this around until we first solve poverty. As progressive ed reformer, I'm all for solving poverty. But I don't think we have to choose between solving poverty and doing better by our kids for the six or so hours a day that we have them in the classroom. We can do both. We have to do both. Local ed reformers want our school district to hire good principals and give them the freedom to hire the best teachers; get rid of ineffective ones, extend the school day and year at sites where kids are far behind, etc. etc. This is our big so-called "corporate reform"agenda. My question to people like Robert Panning Miller is.... in what progressive universe is it okay to repeatedly favor the needs of 3,300 teachers (who are overwhelmingly white and middle-class) at the direct expense of 30,000 children (who are overwhelmingly brown and poor)?? In what progressive universe is it okay to shrug off and "normalize" the academic failure of 20,000 brown students? Especially when we now have pubic (charter) schools who are getting great results with the same demographic of kids who are failing in masse in our district schools.

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xrkqwkAug. 25, 1311:25 PM

I AM a teacher in an urban district. All this 'extra money' you hear about on the news? it isn't going into MY paycheck - like you I have no idea where it goes. And as for my 'Union', I rarely if EVER see anyone IN my Union beyond teachers I work with in my Dept. And, know what we do all day? TEACH. We don't sit and discuss 'Union' issues. I will say this: certain cultures are self destructive - and I cannot fix it. African American culture for example (not all, but some). ALL we hear about in trainings are how AA males underperform. Know what? **They also get the most behavior referrals and suspensions. How is that MY fault as a teacher? How do you teach a kid who could care less to begin with and is more interested in getting kicked out of class so he can wander the school and talk to friends in the hallway? (not embellishing) Seems many on the 'outside' sit and complain about how bad it is....but that's all they do is COMPLAIN. Know what? We're hiring. Pick up some chalk and man a post and handle a classroom for a year and teach. Don't just 'complain', be a part of the solution you are constantly whining about. It is difficult work and barriers we face arise outside of our classrooms and we have little, if any, control over them. Private schools get to CHOOSE their students, often based upon who can afford them. I get no choice. I have to teach whoever shows up- whether they can even speak English or whether they can even add.

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danscAug. 26, 13 2:34 AM

I have a child in a Minneapolis Public school and one in a Charter school. What is working for my child in the charter school is higher expectations for the children in terms of homework and behavioral expectations that require the parents to deal with their children's behavior. We had a lot of calls from Teachers until my child's behavior in the charter school class improved. We also have larger homework packets over the holidays and just more homework in general. What has worked for us in the MPLS are the tenured teachers. We have had great experiences with the experienced and dedicated MPLS Teachers! From our experiences, I would see a longer school day and year, as the best solution to the achievement gap. This would require quite an investment in more staff, teachers and a levy for the schools. Perhaps after school care, with homework support each day. I think we could really improve student test scores with a longer school day and shorter summer. Good to see so many people that care so much about our kids in Minneapolis!

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comment229Aug. 26, 13 4:38 AM

I have yet to hear one dropout say "darn union" and "damn that seniority list." The quotes in this article throw out the word "accountable" over and over, but fail to be accountable themselves. Want to solve the achievement gap? Start with the usual problem solving methodology. Identify the problem. I would pay to have a group of reformers sit at a table in front of 30 dropouts and/or struggling students from any of the MPLS schools, and listen after they are asked the simple question; "Why are you struggling in school?" Until you do that, don't bother me with the usual union/seniority rhetoric because I know that discussion is a fraud. scapegoat, and coverup.

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comment229Aug. 26, 13 4:44 AM

Further, I will be blunt. It was recently reported/documented that in MN, a person on welfare acquires over $30,000 in monetary/benefits per year, and a person on minimum wage, earns about $15,000 per year. Fact. Now, these kids aren't stupid. What is to be gained with a diploma; a minimum wage job? College (consider the cost), a trip to Afghanistan or the next trouble spot in the world? The alternative is to wait it out and their incentive is NOT a diploma. Who created this mess? Whose fault is it? I would suggest to you that much, if not all of it, is the fault of the legislators that are screaming about our schools and the achievement gap. Teachers ARE the scapegoat here when in reality, they have been handed an impossible task. Time for a reality check and to leave the universe of denial.

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