Rebecca Gagnon: From birth to college, MPS must provide quality every step of the way

One morning a week for the past 5 years I’ve volunteered at a pre-K program in North Minneapolis sponsored by my church. For 2 ½ hours, myself, another volunteer and a teacher work with 10 to 15 four and five year olds to prepare them for kindergarten and provide them a solid footing to graduate from high school. Quality early childhood programs are a proven best practice to closing the achievement gap. MPS’s High Five pre-K program has expanded significantly since its inception almost a decade ago, and 82% of our students entering kindergarten with a High 5 experience are meeting or exceeding the standard benchmark for literacy. It is unconscionable that we continue to have a wait list of over 500 students and inadequate funding and space to meet the need.This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The right education conversation (on my own letterhead)

I’m often told I have a thankless job, that I must have thick skin. The truth is I love being an at-large school board member in Minneapolis; I’m grateful and privileged to do this work. That said, it’s not surprising that hardly anyone wants to run for the Minneapolis school board. Lack of a living wage, too time consuming, the cost and complexity of a campaign, and fear of public humiliation often emerge as the discouraging factors. As a target of some who believe there is only one road to education reform, I understand the reluctance.

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FREE SPEECH ZONE | An MPS school board member’s perspective on being stuck on seniority

While school districts across Minnesota wait for the state’s teacher evaluation task force to come up with a system, implement it, and only THEN enforce layoffs by effectiveness before seniority, Minneapolis Public Schools is thinking, “that was so three years ago.” Knowing we could not wait, MPS developed a strategic plan in 2007 that includes a commitment to implement a comprehensive teacher evaluation system. It took a couple of years working in collaboration with the teachers union, many hours of research, looking at best practices, gaining insight from the Gates Foundation’s 3 year teacher evaluation study, and knowing what has already been effective in evaluating teachers in MPS (because we have been doing so all along). This year we began rolling out the observation phase of the evaluation. To ensure the quality of our observation tool, our principals were required to earn the Standards of Effective Instruction certification, based on a well researched national certification process. Continue Reading