Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Shifting away from the subversive narrative that teachers are tireless martyrs for inner-city youth

Violent. Aggressive. To be tamed. These are terms often used to describe animals and at times even criminals. Yet, in a recent City Pages article Distrust and Disorder: “A Racial Equity Policy Summons Chaos” in the St. Paul Schools, the nomenclature used to describe students was as such. They were not described as children or the developing youth, but as violent delinquents. Whose students were these? What school was this? These were certainly not my scholars, nor was it an accurate depiction of my work climate in a North Minneapolis school.

It is universally agreed that education, racial equity and discipline in public schools is a complex national conversation. Let’s be clear: Public schools were never designed to serve this diverse of an array of students. What was once intended to churn out obedient industrial workers is now charged with preparing scholars for college and competition in a globalized workforce. In this respect alone, a massive overhaul is long overdue. As I read on, the article proved to be the same old, oversimplified narrative: Inner-city students are violent, unintelligent thugs, and teachers in these schools are tireless martyrs trying to save students from themselves…and poverty…and their community…and…you get the point. Continue Reading

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U of M hopes to keep high school grads of color in state

Being a Black male administrator at a predominately White institution such as the U of M is important because it offers the opportunity to be “invited to the table and share our perspectives,” states Abdullah. “I think we are an emerging group. I don’t know if people really understand the importance, and what we also need to do is continue to tell our stories on how we were able to be successful in terms of navigating through higher education.” Continue Reading

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Tackling achievement gap for American Indian students

Before the first class bell rings on Monday mornings, students at Nay Ah Shing High School gather to participate in a tradition that was instituted long before they were born. “Pipe and Dish” sets the tone for students and staff at the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe-run school in Onamia. The ceremony allows participants to “offer” tobacco and food to the Creator to ask for help in their studies and work in the days ahead. The morning ritual serves as a symbolic opportunity for students and staff to recognize the cultural roots the school was founded on 40 years ago. But Nay Ah Shing’s emphasis on its American Indian culture is not limited to the “Pipe and Dish” offering, according to Suzanne Wise, education commissioner for the Mille Lacs Band. Continue Reading

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Searching for shared truths on teaching and race

After 25 years of teaching in Minneapolis with predominately all-white teachers and administrations, one day, I realized it got down to this …

If I never saw a white person again, especially a white woman, it would be too soon! Continue Reading

No Easy Answers

You go to a community gathering; you believe that the speaker, a white male, will listen and take you, a white woman, and your friends in: black and white men, black and white women. And he does, for a moment, but he seems to be crouching there, waiting to spring with his response. To give him credit, he lets us talk and even nods his head and affirms us. Yet he dominates the room. I wanted a circle, I wanted him to end the cyclic way his words came back and back and back to integration as the only solution to educational reform. Continue Reading

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Her dream came true: Meet Husna Ibrahim

When Husna Ibrahim stuck her hand inside the envelope and pulled out her acceptance letter for the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, her life’s dream came true. “Every day just being able to say that you go to the University of Minnesota and walking up and saying ‘oh my gosh, I’m a college student.’ That’s a huge deal,” Ibrahim said.  
Ibrahim is currently a sophomore student at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is an alumnus of Project SUCCESS, a program that showed her college was possible.  
Ibrahim was originally born and raised in South Africa. Growing up, her mother wanted her and her four sisters to be independent and educated. Continue Reading

Northside schools create partnership for student success

A new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus will be fully introduced this fall at both North Community High School and, a few blocks away, at the “new” Franklin Middle School. North Principal Shawn Harris-Berry and Franklin Principal Karon Cunningham are working collaboratively across the schools.There was a strong relationship back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s” between the two schools, recalls Harris-Berry, a 27-year Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) veteran. Since then, however, both schools have undergone major changes. North now is a “small college-preparatory” high school with nearly 300 students.“[It] is not a big box school. Everybody knows you by name,” proclaims North’s principal. Continue Reading

Gov. Mark Dayton enters the room to deliver his biennial budget proposal Jan. 27. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Dayton’s budget focused squarely on education

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $42 billion, two-year budget heavily focused on Minnesota’s youngest residents. Unveiled Tuesday, Dayton’s budget framework would spend most of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus on program areas like early childhood education and child health, and would provide nearly $100 million in child care assistance tax credits to Minnesota families. The plan would increase state spending by roughly $2.5 billion more in 2016-2017 over the current biennium and leave $35 million of the projected surplus unspent. “I’m placing my priority on the future of Minnesota,” Dayton said during a morning news conference. The proposed spending, he said, is aimed squarely at closing the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students by doing more, earlier, to place less of a burden on the state’s schools to solve the disparities. Continue Reading

Maxfield Elementary in Saint Paul.

Improving urban public education: 8 ideas from a veteran teacher

t’s hardly news that less than half of the kids in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools are proficient in reading and math. Education “experts” have weighed in on this topic, but we haven’t often heard the perspective of classroom teachers. What follows are eight ideas for improving urban education; they’re based on what I learned from 34 years of teaching in public and private schools:1. Provide one year of free preschool for all children from low-income families. Critics of urban public schools rarely acknowledge that many kids come to kindergarten already a year or more behind. Continue Reading

Nyles Carpenter (far left) with Nano Days participants.

Nano Days: Exposing Sabathani youth to nano technology

On Saturday, April 4, 2015, the Sabathani Community Center, in collaboration with the Bakken Museum, the Science Museum, the University of Minnesota, and S.E.L.F. International, Inc., hosted the fourth annual Nano Days. By definition, a nano is one one-billionth of something.For example, a nano meter is one-billionth of a meter and is so small that it can’t be seen on a macro scale. It requires a nanoscale to be seen. Scientists must use special tools when working with atoms and molecules at the nanoscale. Nano research is leading to new technologies that are dramatically changing and improving modern medicine, computers, cell phones, energy production and manufacturing.Photo by James L. Stroud, Jr.Bonnie Everts (far right) with Nano Days participantsIn fact, one demonstration during the Nano Days event showcased a waterproof, stain-resistant material used to make khaki pants and rain coats. Continue Reading