Evaluating tutoring programs: What parents can look for

“Mom can you help me, please? I don’t understand the homework.” At some point, parents also have difficulty understanding the homework — or figuring out how to help their children understand it. Can a tutoring program help the student to learn better? And how can parents tell which program works?Each of our interns in the last semester (Fall 2012) had volunteered in a tutoring program. As part of their final project, they put together a series of stories — a list of volunteer tutoring opportunities, an evaluation of what makes tutoring effective, and three individual stories, linked here. If a child struggles in school, a tutoring program can help to improve the child’s performance. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Alan Shilepsky: A lifetime of passion for politics

Alan Shilepsky likes talking, especially about politics and books. You can sit hours and hours with him in a good coffee shop and discuss politics and the world without getting bored. Shilepsky has strong opinions and does not hesitate to share them. He knows that he puts people’s backs up but it seems not to bother him.I first met Shilepsky before the election to discuss the Voter ID Amendment, which he supported. In his years as an election judge, he always appreciated when people would show an ID, especially when they had complicated names. Continue Reading

Laurie Radovsky finds healthy way to take the Food Stamp Challenge in Minneapolis

Can people eat healthy if they have just $31.50 to buy food for a week?This was a question that Laurie Radovsky, a participant in the Twin Cities Food Stamp Challenge, asked herself. As a family doctor, she tells her clients that it is possible to eat healthy without spending hundreds of dollars for food. Now she used the Food Stamp Challenge as an opportunity to test her own conviction. That meant committing to shop and eat for a week on a budget of $31.50 per person — the amount that, on average, food stamp recipients receive.(See article describing the 2012 Food Stamp Challenge here.)Before she went shopping, Radovsky and her husband sat down and discussed what she would buy. They tried to rank the groceries in an order of what is essential for daily life and what is luxury. This was not easy, as her husband ranked coffee as essential but Radovsky said she would do without it.They both agreed that milk, bread, hard cheese, eggs, cottage cheese and potatoes are essential daily needs. They also agree that, to have a healthy diet, people have to eat at least two to three servings of fruits and vegetables a day.As Radovsky entered Cub Foods, she immediately heeded for the fruit section and bought apples. Continue Reading

Minnesota Jews, Christians and Muslims take Food Stamp Challenge together

Can we imagine what does it mean to live on a food allowance of $31.50 per week?  Participants in the Twin Cities  Food Stamp Challenge week, November 11-18, now have a lot better idea of what it takes.  Members of 15  groups took the Food Stamp Challenge from November 11-18.  They  tried to buy groceries from the $31.50 allowance that is the national average per person for food stamp recipients, and to eat for one week just from the purchased goods. This year was the second time that Rabbi Amy Eilberg had participated in the challenge and she had already made a list of essential things she wanted to buy. As she talked about her list at the opening gathering on November 11, one of the listeners raised his hand.The man asked:  “Is anyone here poor?” Nobody raised his hand.55-year-old, Dennis Boe then said, “Because I am.” He got excited and claimed that this challenge would just be a game. Continue Reading

My first Halloween

When I knew that I was going to America, there were certain events that I was exciting to experience by myself. For example, I am very curious to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Continue Reading

“Strong Schools, Strong Communities” encourages students to attend St. Paul neighborhood schools

Around 40 attendees filled the assembly hall of Johnson High School and waited for St. Paul Public Schools elementary assistant superintendents, Sharon Freeman and Andrew Collins, to talk about the new Strong Schools, Strong Communities strategic plan. The November 1 meeting, one of a series focused on the initiative, was especially for the parents of Area A, to present the schools and choices of this area.  Andrew Collins introduced the latest Strong Schools, Strong Communities plan and explained that Saint Paul Public Schools wants to encourage students to attend their neighborhood schools in order to develop a better community. The new strategic plan aims to increase the achievement of the student’s potential, and improve alignment to provide a quality school choice and sustainability. In a change in school organization, the sixth grade will move to middle schools, so that elementary schools are just K-5 grades. Community school zones are designed in a new way and busing  will be provided to all community schools.These new features seemed to make the parents unsure because they asked many questions about how to choose the best school for their children.Sharon Freeman explained with a map, which was provided to each attendee, how parents can choose the best school for their kids. Continue Reading

First Twin Cities Social Justice Curriculum Fair hit the spot

The Social Justice Curriculum Fair was just the day that about 120 K-12 teachers, education workers and allies needed. Burdened with the everyday problems like full schedules, organizing or administrative pressure, teachers miss the opportunity to socialize with each other and with their students. On October 19, the Twin Cities Social Justice Curriculum Fair offered them an opportunity to get together, attend workshops around the topic of social justice and share thoughts and experiences.The fair focused on 11 workshops about topics such as “Mathematics and the Community.”  Math classes tend to be very logical and dry but this workshop demonstrates the possibility of involving social justice even in math and science subjects.Other workshops treated topics such as “Electric Bills, Waste Paper Baskets, and Social Class-Sensitive Pedagogy” and “Collective Memory Work as a Classroom Tool: Exploring Gender and Sexuality through Critical Literacy.”After the workshops, a panel of four teachers talked about their experiences with social justice in their school, including racism, packed curriculums and identity problems. The audience was very attentive and seemed to understand the discussed experiences. For example, a young black teacher talked about his experiences that young black male students have problems with identity at their schools. He said that the boys were missing a male black teacher with whom they could identify and talk to freely. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | “I’m Ellen, the nurse”

I was in a hurry. I didn’t want to be delayed but the old man looked so desperate that I still stopped to listen. The old man told me that he was a Marine. He showed me his Veteran ID proudly, but then he said that he had broken his finger. He had no health insurance and asked me for money to get his finger fixed.I was on my way to meet Ellen Lafans, also known as “Ellen, the Nurse,” who is fighting for single payer universal health care coverage.I thought, “This has to be destiny,” that I experienced the complicated health situation first-hand on the day I would meet a woman who thinks that health care is a human right.In her own wordsby Ellen LaFansHere are the facts. Continue Reading

THREE ISSUES│Foreign policy, creating new jobs, rebuilding education and “Culture counts”

Alan Shilepsky has not three but four issues that matter to him. As a convinced Republican, he has very strong thoughts about how he perceives the election and politics in general. Shilepsky has worked as an election judge, was active in three political parties and worked for candidates such as Governor Arne Carlson during the 1990s. Even if he doesn’t work actively in politics anymore, politics is in his mind, heart and soul. And this you can feel, when you talk with him about the ongoing election.Shilepsky is married, works as a database consultant and lives in downtown Minneapolis.His first issue is a strong and realistic foreign policy and national defense. Continue Reading