University of Minnesota takes on state’s school achievement gap: Goals include more teachers of color, more ‘partnering’

Last week, we spoke with the leadership of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) initiative to reduce Minnesota’s achievement gap. However, we cannot discuss students and their families without focusing on schoolteachers.Left: Jean Quam (Photo courtesy of U of M)According to CEHD’s Dean Jean Quam, there are currently 31 percent students of color in the U of M teacher preparation programs. She is hopeful that a new partnership with Teach for America (TFA), which is currently being discussed, will change that number.“They have 38 percent students of color in their teacher corps. We want to work with them to increase that number and improve their teacher preparation program,” she said. That plan includes lengthening and strengthening (TFA’s) five-week intensive training model.Misty Sato, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and her team are creating incubators for this work in partnership with the Bush Foundation through the TERI (Teacher Education Redesign Initiative) program. The main priority is to diversify teacher-candidate pools.Left: Kim Nelson (Photo courtesy of General Mills)“The kind of program that we are running is working well for a particular population. Continue Reading

University of Minnesota takes on school achievement gap — Community organizations collaborate on Northside research

Last spring’s edition of Connect, a quarterly newsletter of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), announced a major initiative to reduce the Black-White achievement gap in Minnesota. Since it was not apparent in the story what role African Americans were playing in this effort, we decided to inquire further. Our question: Given that African American children are least proficient in reading and math (grades 3-12), where are African Americans involved in the U of M’s efforts to close one of the worst achievement gaps between Blacks and Whites in the United States?This is the first of a two-part story.We began our look into the U of M’s response to the achievement gap with a leadership profile. Professors Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of educational psychology, Campbell Leadership Chair in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and Misty Sato, associate professor of curriculum and instruction and Carmen Starkson Campbell Endowed Chair for Innovation in Teacher Development, were featured prominently in the Connect story as initiative leaders.We found African Americans involved indirectly in partnership rather than in the leadership of the initiative. Perhaps the job of the newly appointed vice president for equity and diversity, Dr. Katrice Albert, will change the landscape a bit. Continue Reading

DREAMing forward in Minnesota

“It wasn’t talked about. It was very hush-hush. The college process…no one would do it. I was alone, “said DREAMer Luis Hernandez, reflecting on his college admissions experience. “I had never met another undocumented student or at least no one had ever told me they were undocumented outright and that they were applying to college. Continue Reading

Rondo Arts and Cultural Business District highlights African American business in St. Paul

“We don’t want to forget the past or let it trap us as old baggage. We want to recognize our history and those who’ve contributed,” said Nieeta Presley, executive director of the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC) at the launch of the Rondo Arts and Cultural Business District on June 13. The new district includes retail, service, food and entertainment venues in addition to landmarks, organizations, churches and schools. EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rondo district is part of the World Cultural Heritage District along University Avenue’s light rail Central Corridor in St. Continue Reading

One Minneapolis mayoral forum: Young Minneapolis puts candidates on the spot

One Minneapolis, touted as one of the most diverse forums in the Minneapolis mayoral race thus far, was organized by Henry Jiménez and Marjaan Sirdar to focus on youth and racial disparities. Forum moderator Nekima Levy-Pounds said that, “this is a forum for the people by the people,” and opened by identifying major challenges that ought to be priorities for the next Minneapolis mayor including the employment gap, education gap, contact between police and black men, and affordable housing.The format of the forum was that two candidates’ names were drawn from a hat for each question. That resulted in some candidates having more opportunities to speak than others.Youth from various parts of the city asked the majority of the questions, with the first few coming from homeless youth representatives.[Danada] “Me being former homeless and my peers being homeless, we have nowhere to go but downtown. Downtown is our community where we feel safe. As we walk and hang out downtown, we have a great chance of being harassed or arrested. Continue Reading

Gorillas in our midst: Como Park Zoo opens new Gorilla Forest this weekend

If you thought the polar bears were cool, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s latest $11 million exhibit redesign is just in time to welcome in the summer. Yesterday was the grand opening of Gorilla Forest, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America. Six of the seven gorillas are new to Como Zoo. Schroeder, Alice, Nne, Dara, Jabir, Virgil, and Samson are being introduced to the public for the first time.Festivities for the Gorilla Forest grand opening will last all weekend with African drumming and dance from Duniya Drum and Dance group, recycled bead making, Primate Keeper talks, and an opportunity to collect trading cards from the exhibit stations.The exhibit was designed to expand the habitat for the gorillas giving them more space to play, climb, and feed, while displaying their extraordinary family and social dynamics to the public. The outdoor exhibit and expanded indoor facilities will give visitors an up close and personal view of the gorillas.Funding for Como’s newest attraction is made possible with public investments from the City of St. Continue Reading

Pre-K, ECFE, talent testing concerns aired at St. Paul school board listening session

“We were fooled,” said one parent at the April 24 St. Paul school board listening session. She was speaking to school district representatives about the Pre-K program, which has 100 students on the waiting list. Officials expect 600 students will be on the list by the time school opens in the fall. SPPS’s Pre-K programs are actually designed to serve students who are bi-lingual, high poverty, and/or considered eligible for special education, according to Jackie Turner, executive director for the Office of Family Engagement and Community Partnerships. “It’s not designed for students who have other opportunities outside of the home,” said Turner.“The district has to get more marketing out there to communicate that [Pre-K programming] is not for the average Joe kid,” the parent said.St. Continue Reading

Youth sleep outside on coldest night of April, advocate for help for homeless

Thirteen-year-old Collin Robinson has a personal connection to homelessness. He and his mother were homeless when he was younger and he also has other family members dealing with homelessness. “My mother was a single mom at the time and we were bouncing around from place to place,” he said.Robinson participated in the 9th Annual “A Night on the Street” event hosted by Plymouth Congregational Church (PCC) in Minneapolis, which reserved space in its parking lot for the event. Some 30 faith-based youth groups from across the metro area slept outside in cardboard boxes Friday, April 19 to raise awareness for homeless youth in Minnesota and to experience what homelessness might be like.“The life of being homeless is something people take for granted,” Robinson said.Shannon Kearns, youth leader from PCC, said that the focus of these events is shifting to advocacy. At PCC, this experience is a requirement for students who are in confirmation classes. Continue Reading

Minnesota Housing Partnership, Rep. Keith Ellison propose change in mortgage deduction to benefit lower-income homeowners, renters

According to the 2013 Out of Reach report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Minnesota has the least affordable housing for minimum wage workers in the Midwest. Unfortunately, renters feel the cost burden the most. Some fifty percent of renters in Minnesota pay more than one-third of their income for housing.At a housing policy forum sponsored by the Minnesota Housing Partnership on April 4, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) shared his latest legislative proposal, H.R. 1213 or the Common Sense Housing Investment Act. If passed, the legislation would modify the current mortgage interest deduction by reducing the size of a mortgage eligible for a tax break to $500,000 and converting the deduction to a 15 percent non-refundable tax credit.Lack of affordable housing is not a new problem, but changing demographics could make it worse. According to Housing America’s Future, a recent report issued by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Housing Policy, “the nation’s 41 million renter households account for 35 percent of the U.S. population.” That demographic is likely to grow. Continue Reading

Shiloh Temple opens doors to homeless families in North Minneapolis

Blow-up mattresses and baby cribs might not seem like church supplies, but they’re part of the mission for Shiloh Temple International Ministries, located at West Broadway and Fremont Avenue in North Minneapolis. Shiloh Temple is one of 43 congregations that take turns hosting homeless families on a one to two week rotation at least once a year. Churches provide sleeping quarters in Sunday School classrooms and other open spaces, with volunteers sharing room set up, shopping and food prep. Some volunteers even stay at the site location overnight with guests.Families Moving Forward (FMF), which has served the Twin-Cities homeless community for more than 20 years, directs the program. Now part of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative (formerly Portico), the program is a national model for providing shelter to the homeless. FMF serves eight families in all, with most referrals coming from Hennepin County.“It’s like a home away from home,” said FMF Volunteer Coordinator and Congregational Liaison Peter Arneson. Continue Reading