E-DEMOCRACY | Minneapolis Public schools, attendance boundaries, and civil rights

Editor's note: Seward Montessori School is located at 2309 28th Avenue South, Minneapolis. According to its website, it became a K-8 school back in the 1990s. This E-Democracy discussion thread has two concerns: 1) What's a Montessori school for grades 6-8? and 2) Where should Minneapolis invest money in order to provide good schools for all students? 

From: Sue Kolstad Date: 7:26pm, Apr 19

An interesting illustration of what happens when you convert elementary and middle schools to K-8: Seward Montessori School. It was changed from K-6 to K-8. I have yet to see literature that explains how the Montessori Method is adapted to grades above approximately 3rd grade. The building capacity is 700 and the enrollment is 900. Two things at work. One is the popularity of the program and the other is the addition of 2 grades. Now the district plans to build a 3 story addition to hold the extra 200 students. What about using that money to improve programs at the under attended schools?

Sue Kolstad
Seward

From: Joe Nathan Date: 6:13am, Apr 20

On issue of Montessori for students older than 3rd grade...can't speak for Minneapolis but St. Paul has two (district) very popular elementary Montessori schools and a new Montessori middle school, there also is a very popular grades 6-12 Montessori charter, Great River School in St. Paul.

Cincinnati Ohio Public Schools has had both Montessori elementary and a Montessori Junior-Senior High School. A lot of work has been done on applying Montessori principles to middle and high school programs.

From: Sue Kolstad Date: 4:47pm, Apr 20

Thank you, Joe Nathan for your report on the extended use of the Montessori "brand" in schools that have students older than 8 years.

I still would like to see literature on how this is applied,as Dan McGuire also asks.

For years, I thought that Montessori was the ONLY discipline in the Mpls schools that had it's teachers trained specifically to that method of teaching. My disappointment was enormous when I found that Open School teachers were self selected in the high schools & middle schools and seniority was a determinator of who got what position. So now, I am especially interested in finding out from someone how the Montessori Method has been adapted to older children.

And, on topic to the original post of this thread, which schools in the high poverty areas of Mpls need to be expanded because their programs are so popular that they draw from all over the city?

Sue Kolstad
Seward

From: Joe Nathan Date: 5:49pm, Apr 20

Here's a link to an interesting set of articles about Montessori secondary schools: http://www.montessori.org/sitefiles/montessori_way_HS.pdf

The article notes among other things: * Ann Frank (yes that Ann Frank) attended a Montessori high school in Amsterdam * The first Montessori secondary schools were developed in the 1930's * Montessori secondary models were developed in the US in the 1970's * Maria Montessori herself proposed ideas for changes in traditional secondary education

The articles include a discussion of key elements of Montessori secondary schools and an article about the Clark (district) Montessori secondary school (Middle and high school) in Cincinnati.

Looks like a like more thinking has gone into this than simply adopting a "brand name"

The group providing this information describes itself as follows: "The International Montessori Council (IMC) is a world-wide umbrella organization of Montessori schools and the men and women who lead them, own them, or serve on their boards. Its focus is on issues of concern to Montessori school leaders: administration, curriculum development, recruitment and hiring, supervising teachers and staff, insurance, finance, facilities, working with boards, recruitment, building community, fund raising, public relations, and so forth."

From: Dan McGuire Date: 9:57pm, Apr 20

Uh, Joe, there's no information in the book to which you link that would explain how Seward Montessori has or will apply the Montessori method. The schools mentioned in the linked piece are small niche schools that appear to be predominantly white. My daughter went to Seward for middle school and received an excellent education from some outstanding teachers, but I couldn't distinguish the methods at Seward from those at Sanford where my son received an excellent education from outstanding teachers.

The article linked suggests that it's NOT likely that the Montessori method will be successful if it is applied to a school that uses the same 'accountability' measures as other MPS schools.

From: Minke Sundseth Date: 12:16am

The Seward Montessori middle school is not actually a Montessori program nor does it pretend to be. Everybody whose child enters that school is informed from the beginning that the middle school teachers are not Montessori trained and Montessori methods are not used. The reason that the district is choosing to invest in Seward is because in addition to the severe current overcrowding, there are more students than there are seats in Area B schools that parents most want to send their kids to, and they want to keep those students in-district by investing in a popular and comparatively successful program.

From: Sue Kolstad Date: 1:32am

According to the article, Joe Nathan (and thanks, Joe for that, it is enlightening) provided, Montessori's vision for a middle/high school was on a farm. I don't see that happening in Minneapolis. The teaching philosophy described for the schools can be wonderfully adapted to other types of schools.

Our problem in Minneapolis is delivering an excellent education to ALL students in all neighborhoods. I don't see this happening when a school is allowed to grow to almost 1/3 more than it's capacity and then pleads overcrowding to get an expensive addition that will reduce neighborhood green space. I admit that I am not aware of plans in Zone 1 to bring similar improvement to the schools there. I also do not know where all the students come from who attend Seward. It is a magnet school so it draws from other areas. Isn't it just possible that when a school is this popular, the district should try to replicate that success in other neighborhoods?

"...in addition to the severe current overcrowding,there are more students than there are seats in Area B schools that parents most want to send their kids to,..." I am confused, Minke. Does this mean there are schools in Area B that parents do NOT want to send their kids to? Or does this mean that all schools in Area B are extremely desirable and over crowded?

I really don't care if Seward goes to 8th grade 5th grade. But it IS called a Montessori School. If part of it is not, perhaps we should call it "Seward Montessori and Something Else But Still Excellent School". Also, can someone tell me if there are ANY schools in Minneapolis that parents are not tearing their hair out to get their kids into? If there are, we have a problem. If there are not, I would like to hear someone make that statement. The main issue is the district admitting so many more students than it's capacity and then calling for a large new addition to make the school the right size for it's enrollment.

Until I hear that all schools in Minneapolis are equally desirable, I will continue under the assumption that we have a problem. District boundaries can be changed if that's what is needed to equalize enrollment. Money needs to be invested in the areas that most need it not because of an artificial problem caused by poor planning in admissions policy.

Sue Kolstad
Seward

From: Doug Mann Date: 1:37am

To summarize the points I made in the first post in this thread:

The Minneapolis School Board has segregated students by race and income far and beyond what was required by its Community School Plan, such as by shifting from K-4 and middle schools serving diverse neighborhood to K-8 schools serving much less diverse neighborhoods. School attendance boundaries and choice of school sites furthered this process of racial segregation.

The Minneapolis School Board has maintained a large pool of probationary teachers who are concentrated in high-poverty, racially identifiable schools. For many years this was done by firing all probationary teachers every year, and recently by large scale terminations of probationary teachers classified as "performance layoffs."

Focused instruction is tied to a scripted, test-prep curriculum that is teacher center and emphasizes drill-and-kill activities. Inexperienced teachers with long duty days are strongly motivated to follow the script. Meanwhile, the district will no doubt continue to provide a different kind of education, gifted and talented education programs for a large minority of the students, about 25% overall, as much as 40% of white students. The general approach taken with gifted and talented students, which is more individualized, student centered, and enriched works quite well for most students who are not identified as gifted and talented.

The racial test score gap reflects differences in access to a quality public education, as well as access to jobs, housing, and justice. Many students from families at or below the poverty line experienced toxic levels of stress, as many as 40% by some estimates. Segregation and unequal resource allocation within core school programs are huge disadvantages for students in high poverty schools. The School Board has chosen to make that so. The best way deal with the negative effects of poverty on student is to take steps to eliminate poverty, such as by raising the minimum wage and proactive enforcement of fair employment and housing laws.

I am a candidate for Minneapolis School Board, citywide, endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America and New Progressive Alliance. I am seeking the Green Party endorsement.

Note to DFL city delegates: The convention site has changed. The new site is Roosevelt High School, according to the Minneapolis DFL Facebook page. I am not seeking DFL endorsement.

Doug Mann for School Board (Facebook Community)
https://www.facebook.com/mannforschoolboard

Doug Mann for School Board (Blogspot)
http://mannforschoolboard.blogspot.com

-Doug Mann, Folwell neighborhood, north side of Minneapolis

From: Dennis Schapiro Date: 2:31pm

There are some excellent public Montessori middle and high schools in the U.S. The teachers have been well trained and adhere to principles of Montessori education. They build programs on the fly.

Seward, to my knowledge, never promised a program that follows Montessori principles. It was actually an effort by administration to placate parents, many of whom have incomplete information on the method.

Dennis Schapiro
editor Public School Montessorian (25 years)
former MPS board member

From: Dan McGuire Date: 3:27pm

Mr. Shapiro,

Thanks for your perspective. It seems there are two not necessarily dependent issues here:

1. The application of the Montessori methods in middle and high schools, in particular in MPS schools.

2. The magnet status of certain schools in MPS.

While I think an exploration of how Montessori methods might be applied to MPS schools would be fruitful, the second issue seems to have more connection to the Civil Rights of MPS students and families, which is the basis of this thread. If Seward is explicitly NOT a Montessori program, how does it have magnet status as a middle school? What specific issues of parents were being placated by the MPS administration in granting a special status to Seward, and how does that placation impact the civil rights of the general population of MPS students?

E-Democracy forum posts are republished under license by Creative Commons with Attribution. There were 13 posts on this topic as of April 21, 2014. See entire discussion thread here.

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