Searching for shared truths on teaching and race

After 25 years of teaching in Minneapolis with predominately all-white teachers and administrations, one day, I realized it got down to this …

If I never saw a white person again, especially a white woman, it would be too soon! Continue Reading

No Easy Answers

You go to a community gathering; you believe that the speaker, a white male, will listen and take you, a white woman, and your friends in: black and white men, black and white women. And he does, for a moment, but he seems to be crouching there, waiting to spring with his response. To give him credit, he lets us talk and even nods his head and affirms us. Yet he dominates the room. I wanted a circle, I wanted him to end the cyclic way his words came back and back and back to integration as the only solution to educational reform. Continue Reading

Her dream came true: Meet Husna Ibrahim

When Husna Ibrahim stuck her hand inside the envelope and pulled out her acceptance letter for the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, her life’s dream came true. “Every day just being able to say that you go to the University of Minnesota and walking up and saying ‘oh my gosh, I’m a college student.’ That’s a huge deal,” Ibrahim said.  
Ibrahim is currently a sophomore student at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is an alumnus of Project SUCCESS, a program that showed her college was possible.  
Ibrahim was originally born and raised in South Africa. Growing up, her mother wanted her and her four sisters to be independent and educated. Continue Reading

Northside schools create partnership for student success

A new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus will be fully introduced this fall at both North Community High School and, a few blocks away, at the “new” Franklin Middle School. North Principal Shawn Harris-Berry and Franklin Principal Karon Cunningham are working collaboratively across the schools.There was a strong relationship back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s” between the two schools, recalls Harris-Berry, a 27-year Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) veteran. Since then, however, both schools have undergone major changes. North now is a “small college-preparatory” high school with nearly 300 students.“[It] is not a big box school. Everybody knows you by name,” proclaims North’s principal. Continue Reading

Dayton’s budget focused squarely on education

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $42 billion, two-year budget heavily focused on Minnesota’s youngest residents. Unveiled Tuesday, Dayton’s budget framework would spend most of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus on program areas like early childhood education and child health, and would provide nearly $100 million in child care assistance tax credits to Minnesota families. The plan would increase state spending by roughly $2.5 billion more in 2016-2017 over the current biennium and leave $35 million of the projected surplus unspent. “I’m placing my priority on the future of Minnesota,” Dayton said during a morning news conference. The proposed spending, he said, is aimed squarely at closing the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students by doing more, earlier, to place less of a burden on the state’s schools to solve the disparities. Continue Reading

Improving urban public education: 8 ideas from a veteran teacher

t’s hardly news that less than half of the kids in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools are proficient in reading and math. Education “experts” have weighed in on this topic, but we haven’t often heard the perspective of classroom teachers. What follows are eight ideas for improving urban education; they’re based on what I learned from 34 years of teaching in public and private schools:1. Provide one year of free preschool for all children from low-income families. Critics of urban public schools rarely acknowledge that many kids come to kindergarten already a year or more behind. Continue Reading

Nano Days: Exposing Sabathani youth to nano technology

On Saturday, April 4, 2015, the Sabathani Community Center, in collaboration with the Bakken Museum, the Science Museum, the University of Minnesota, and S.E.L.F. International, Inc., hosted the fourth annual Nano Days. By definition, a nano is one one-billionth of something.For example, a nano meter is one-billionth of a meter and is so small that it can’t be seen on a macro scale. It requires a nanoscale to be seen. Scientists must use special tools when working with atoms and molecules at the nanoscale. Nano research is leading to new technologies that are dramatically changing and improving modern medicine, computers, cell phones, energy production and manufacturing.Photo by James L. Stroud, Jr.Bonnie Everts (far right) with Nano Days participantsIn fact, one demonstration during the Nano Days event showcased a waterproof, stain-resistant material used to make khaki pants and rain coats. Continue Reading

The end of remedial college classes?

 Educators and lawmakers are divided over a proposal that would cut funding for developmental courses at state-run colleges  ST. PAUL, Minn. – College students in remedial classes at state colleges and universities may find themselves taking college-level courses under a proposal that would cut funding for remedial programs.The proposal would not require Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to eliminate remedial courses, but courses that do not earn college credit would be ineligible for grants and financial aid starting in 2017. This has some administrators and legislators split.While lawmakers say the proposal would improve how many students finish their degree faster and improve enrollment retention, some educators and college administrators feel it could deter students from graduating by placing them in courses beyond their skill level.On average, students pay almost $1,000 for remedial courses and 28 percent of MnSCU students are currently taking remedial courses, according to the Office of Higher Education. Of these students, only 20 percent graduate in less than three years.“We don’t want to put [students] in a situation where they get so discouraged and drop out when a two-year degree takes three years to earn,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, who is spearheading the proposal. Continue Reading

Saint Paul’s Hasty Mainstreaming Rollout: A Chat with School Board Candidate Jess Banks

[Central high school on Marshall Avenue.]Saint Paul’s school board is often viewed as less contentious than its Minneapolis counterpart. Fewer families have left the city for charter schools and suburban options, and the School Board meetings have seemed more cooperative between administratos, teachers, and parents. But that might be changing, as the School Board race has become very heated this year. Issues like superintendent pay, the district’s new “mainstreaming” inititive (placing most students in the same classrooms), the (oft-maligned) iPad program, and contract requirements aimed at improving student-teacher ratios. On top of the close race, Superintendent Silva’s recent headlines about a job offer in Florida place added pressure on the election as a test of party support for different kinds of reform.Jess Banks is one of the candidates challenging the incumbent board members this year, and seeking the endorsement at this weekend’s City DFL Convention. Continue Reading

Higher ed committee approves omnibus bill ignoring U of M increase request

The House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee approved an omnibus higher education bill Wednesday that would increase spending by $53.4 million —to $2.95 billion — over the next biennium.But absent from HF845 are funds that would have covered a tuition freeze for students at public four-year universities, much to the dismay of University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.In light of a $1.9 billion budget surplus, “I believe a zero-percent increase is not an acceptable outcome,” Kaler told committee members Wednesday. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.Kaler said that inflationary increases, much needed technology upgrades and the university’s commitment to recruiting and retaining a world-class roster of faculty and staff are major factors in its request for $148 million in increased funding over the next biennium.About $65 million of that requested increase would be allocated to freezing tuition for students at all five of its campuses through 2017. Instead, under provisions of the bill, undergraduate students at the U of M would see a 3 percent increase in tuition and graduate students can expect a 3.5 percent increase, Kaler said.While DFLers expressed disappointment in the bill’s failure cover a tuition freeze, several Republican legislators grilled the president about the university’s professed inability to find more funds anywhere else but in the form of tuition increases.Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom) asked Kaler why the university hasn’t considered increasing the price of tuition for non-resident students, which was lowered in recent years in an effort to attract more out-of-state students..“If we just correct that situation there is millions of dollars available at your disposal,” Barrett said. “Would it cover (the) total amount (needed to offset a tuition freeze)? Probably not. Continue Reading