- Arts & Lifestyle
- Special Sections
- Community Directory
- Ticket Offers
Education: Get Connected!
New Normal 2012 builds on work begun by TCMA and the Twin Cities Daily Planet in 2011. The goal of “The New Normal: Deciding Community Priorities in a Downsized Economy” was to identify challenges facing Minnesota citizens and communities, and evaluate possible solutions. This year the focus is on action steps. Over the next six months, the Daily Planet will publish a variety of articles, interviews and issue guides related to these organizations and the issues they are working on.
Minnesota Compass notes that the state of Minnesota has “long enjoyed a reputation for its high‐quality public education, placing at or near the top in many nation‐wide rankings and measures.” But there are many signs that the state is slipping. Perhaps most disturbing is that Minnesota maintains one of the widest gaps in performance, nationally, based on race, family income, and English proficiency.
Learn more about the challenges, contributions and organizations connected with education in the community engagement guide, and in articles published in the Daily Planet (below.) To join in a series of community "Get Connected!" meetings in partnership with Twin Cities organizations working for change in education policies, see the schedule of meetings and links to register.
Connecting with Minnesota Compass data: A key to effective advocacy by Bruce Johansen • To be an effective advocate, people must first have solid data at their fingertips. Jane Tigan, research associate for Wilder Research, says that Minnesota Compass, a social indicators project, levels the playing field by providing valuable information to anyone with access to a computer and the Internet. Tigan was the main presenter at the most recent New Normal 2012: Get Connected! community meeting, held at the Wilder Foundation on June 27.
Life after high school: Challenges ahead for students with disabilities as they graduate from Minneapolis Public Schools Transition Plus by Alleen Brown • Sam Hesla loves basketball, tennis and karate. He DJs at weddings and high school graduations. The 21-year-old hates the idea that his sister, who is two years younger than him, might move out of his mom’s house first.
Hesla has Down syndrome, and although he’s broken many of the stereotypes associated with the disability, he may never live entirely independently. Housing is just one of many details he and his family are grappling with as he graduates from Minneapolis Public Schools’ Transition Plus program, designed for 18- to 21-year-olds with disabilities.
Girls in Real Life: Moving from bad attitude to engagement in St. Paul by Sheila Regan • “I used to have a bad attitude,” said Janaysia Jaco, an eighth grader at Murray Jr. High, in Saint Paul. That was before she started the Girls in Real Life (GIRL) program, where she meets every week in a new program designed to give young girls empowerment and leadership skills. Someone told Jaco that GIRL might be a good fit for her, so she joined.
St. Paul Hmong two-way immersion programs face challenges of enrolling non-Hmong students, developing curriculum by Alleen Brown • Nou Her is a pre-kindergarten teacher in the first Hmong immersion program in the nation, located at St. Paul’s Jackson Elementary school. She’s also a translator.
During the summer, on weekends, on weeknights and during prep hours, she translates children’s books, district curriculum, wall hangings and songs. “From big books to small books to rhyming to alliteration,” she said.
It’s what’s required for a program that teaches core curriculum in a language for which there exist virtually no commercial curriculum materials.
Like many of Edison High School’s homeless and highly mobile students, senior Shayla Perry’s* story is full of twists and turns, long bus rides, new neighborhoods and schools full of strangers.
It started Shayla’s freshman year. After a fire destroyed her family’s Chicago home (and all of Shayla’s stuff, including her eighth grade graduation dress), Shayla moved to Apple Valley and started at Rosemount High. At first, the family stayed with her brother, but it’s hard to live in someone else’s home and it’s hard having someone else live in yours, so the family moved to a shelter in Eagan, and a bus drove Shayla back and forth to Rosemount. Then there was the place in North Minneapolis, with a different brother’s girlfriend, and a cab that always dropped Shayla off late to school. Before freshman year was up, her family was in St. Paul, and Shayla started at Como High School.
Integration: What is it good for? by Alleen Brown •
How do the FAIR schools in Crystal and downtown Minneapolis exemplify integration? It sounds like a simple question for a magnet school run by the West Metro Education Program – a collaboration between 10 suburban districts and Minneapolis Public Schools, whose purpose it is to encourage school integration and equity.
But the question was met with a blank look from FAIR school principal Kevin Bennett. “What do you mean by integration?” Bennett asked. “People tend to use integration, diversity and equity in a lot of different ways. It would be nice to see what the stated goal is in terms of integrating the school.”
It’s time to pick a school. Parents of pre-schoolers, middle-schoolers and every-schooler in-between have until the end of the month to decide which school their child will attend. It’s a big decision. These days, folks are saying even a single teacher can change the trajectory of a child’s education. So what does a school do? And how do we know a good one from a bad one?
There’s no easy answer to those questions, but in an age of school accountability, parents should have access to some data they can refer to. And they do. It’s just buried in the depths of Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools’ web sites. Here’s a guide to finding it.
Pierre Bottineau French Immersion School plans to bring "je ne sais quoi" to North Minneapolis by Sheila Regan • Minneapolis will be opening its first site-governed school next fall since the state passed a law to allow the model in 2009. Pierre Bottineau French Immersion, located at the Jordan Park building in North Minneapolis was supposed to open this year, but due to a number of factors including the tornado that hit the area last May, postponed it’s opening until next year. The school has already filled enrollment for two kindergarten classes and will also be offering a first grade class and a second and third grade combined class.
Minnesota Department of Human Services proposes changes in autism services by Andrea Parrott • Sheri Radoux has lost faith in the public school district to provide effective services for her three children, each of whom is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. After trying early childhood and family education services for her oldest son, she said that he became worse. “We will probably never use public schools,” she said. Instead, she plans to continue to send her children to a private school. When the Department of Human Services (DHS) released the proposal draft for Reform 2020: Pathways to Independence, Radoux was among parents who became concerned about potential changes in autism spectrum disorder services through Medical Assistance.
Kids online: Best practices for teaching and learning by Sheila Regan • Instant messaging, email, on-line forums, phone calls — it's all part of online teaching and online learning, according to the teachers who believe it offers great opportunities for their students. As schools and student move into this new world, the kinds of teaching and learning experience continue to change. Although Minnesota has no state virtual school, it does have online charter schools, multi-district programs, single district programs, intermediate districts and consortia of schools. Legislation has generally favored online learning, and the state set up a task force in 2008 (renewed this year) whose aim is to look at online learning state wide. As of September of 2011, there were 24 certified online learning public school providers, including eight consortia or intermediate districts, seven charter school programs, and nine multi-district programs, according to the Evergreen Ed Group's report, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice (2011)
Mahmoud El-Kati has an interesting face. He looks stern until he smiles, which he does frequently, and he maintains a direct gaze animated by the rise and fall of his arched brow; it expresses the intellectual nature of a man who has worked hard as an educator and civil rights activist over the past 50 years in the Twin Cities. That face will be the subject of a sculpture portrait titled “Faces of Rondo.” The piece, which will be installed at the Victoria Station light rail station, will honor a group of individuals who have had a positive impact on the Rondo community.
“I have been making theater with kids pretty much since I was a teenager myself,” Dudley Voigt explained about her work here in the Twin Cities as both an artist and educator.
She arrived in the Twin Cities from Vermont in the early 1990s. Her interests fell primarily in the area of art and social change and she majored in theater at Macalester College. After graduating in 1994, Voigt worked as an intern and guest artist for four years at St. Paul Central’s Central Touring Theater with Jan Mandell. Mandell, a national leader, uses theater to empower urban youth, giving voice to a population whose experiences aren’t often represented in education.
“My training and my passion is in both text and physical performance," said Voigt. "I have a background as a dancer. I find that no matter what a student’s training and background is, the body is the most effective storytelling tool and for kids of a variety of experiences, it’s of a language they feel comfortable in. “
Get excited, foodie parents. Minneapolis Public Schools has a new nutrition director with big plans and an impressive resume. After a stint managing fancy hotels on the East Coast, Swiss-born Bertrand Weber helped introduce whole foods and scratch cooking to Hopkins’s now reputable school lunch program. Since 2006, he worked as nutrition director at Taher, an institutional food management company, while remaining active in the farm to school movement as an advisory board member for the National Farm to School Network.
Weber said he became interested in working with school lunch programs after his son was diagnosed with diabetes 14 years ago. The Daily Planet sat down with Bertrand Weber a week into his new job.
Get Connected: Organizations working on Education issues
Parents United: unites and empowers those who value public education in Minnesota to be strong advocates for excellence in public schools.
Minnesota Minority Education Partnership: a collaborative effort dedicated to bringing a broad range of people to the table to increase the success of students of color in Minnesota schools, colleges, and universities.
Committee on the Achievement Gap: an informal, twice‐monthly gathering of people interested in finding ways for all Minnesota students to learn to their full potential regardless of ethnicity, sex, or country of origin.
Schools for Equity in Education: an association of 58 school districts throughout Minnesota that works for greater equity and adequacy in public education funding.
Latino Youth Development Collaborative: engages Hennepin County communities, youth, and agencies to address the increasing high school dropout rate among Latino students.
NAVIGATE Minnesota: addresses the growing need for resources that help immigrant students, regardless of immigration status, to pursue higher education.
New Normal 2012 is a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and Twin Cities Daily Planet, supported by a generous grant from the Bush Foundation.
For More Information: Contact Bruce Johansen: brucejohansen [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net or click here.
Follow Us on Twitter: #newnormal2012