E-DEMOCRACY | The charterization and de-unionization of the Minneapolis Public Schools is picking up steam


From: Dan McGuire Date: 5:26pm, May 18

In order to get a more complete explanation of the plans of the MPS to charterize and de-unionize you’ll need to read the different reports about it, and even after these three different reports we aren’t even close to the whole story. The three reports I found are:

Southwest Minneapolis Patch

TC Daily Planet

and, my favorite on this, so far, MPR news

I didn’t see anything in the Startribune about it ??

The details of Johnson’s plan are sketchy at best, but it sounds like she’s planning on turning a bunch of MPS schools into charter schools. What that actually means is not clear, but the implication is that Johnson doesn’t want the new MPS charters to be bothered with a union contract or any other specific expectations. She alludes to some new accountability and partnerships with business, but what’s new about that? I thought Carol Johnson’s partnership with business is what got us David Jennings, and accountability has been a term attached to just about everything as long as I can remember.

The justification for this new plan is provided by supporters of other charters like board member Monserrate and Eli Kramer.

Boston and Denver are mentioned as places where similar efforts have been attempted. Thanks go to Tim Post for taking the journalistic step of checking how that’s worked. He writes, “In 2008, Colorado passed a law that allowed schools to receive autonomy from their districts. So far, two dozen schools have joined the effort, mostly in Denver. A report last year showed little had changed in those schools other than some budget and calendar decisions. The report also showed that while some schools showed improvement in reading and math, overall most schools did not consistently show enough growth to meet state goals for student achievement. “

Sounds like about all we can really expect is no more union or a much weakened one. One can’t help but wonder it that isn’t the real goal. No mention in the plan is made about changes in actual teaching and learning techniques. Finance and governance changes in schools, which is what Johnson is talking about, don’t necessarily make things better. I’d like to see the MPS focus on good teaching and learning; maybe they could start actually using the literacy tools that are reshaping the industries that provide Kramer and Monserrate the money to support charters.

From: Joe Nathan Date: 6:51pm, May 18

Dan, it will be interesting to see the specifics of what is proposed. Several years ago we brought Dan French here to speak. French is one of the leaders of the Pilot School movement in Boston Public Schools. There have been some encouraging progress in Boston Pilot Schools. Some of it is described in the two publications linked below.

*Strong Results, High Demand: A Four-Year Study of Boston’s Pilot High Schools*, by Rosann Tung and Monique Ouimette, November 2007. Download*Executive Summary <http://www.ccebos.org/Pilot_School_Exec_Summ_11.07.pdf> *(3.6 MB) or *Full Report <http://www.ccebos.org/Pilot_School_Study_11.07.pdf>* (4.3 MB). New study finds that Boston Pilot high school students outperformed their non-Pilot peers on every standard measure of engagement and performance over a four year period. The higher level of achievement held true for every racial, economic, and academic group examined.

*Promising Results and Lessons from the First Boston District School Converting to Pilot Status <http://www.ccebos.org/BCLA_conversion_study.pdf> *, by Rosann Tung and Monique Ouimette, study presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference in April 2007. Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) is the first traditional Boston Public School (Boston High School) to convert to being a Pilot School since the inception of the Network, gaining autonomy over budget, staffing, schedule, curriculum, and governance in exchange for increased school-level accountability. The purpose of this study is to document the process of the schools conversion to Pilot status and the subsequent early changes in the school. Also available, a *brochure<http://www.ccebos.org/BCLA_brochure.pdf> * based on this study.

The Center for Collaborative Education, which French directs, stresses the need to work on ways learning takes place, not just on the organization & governance of a school.



From: Dan McGuire Date: 1:56pm, May 20

Note: I changed the subject line on a response to Joe Nathan and another thread was created. ( I was trying to correct the typo in this subject line.)

Anyway, I see now why the Strib didn’t bother to do a news story on the announcement by Supt. Johnson declaring war on the union contract – the Strib is apparently just going to deal with this story from the editorial office and not bother doing much fact finding, either. http://www.startribune.com/opinion/editorials/207944791.html I feel bad for Steve Brandt, or whoever is going to get stuck covering this lead up to a show down with the teacher union. I think it would be hard to try to be an objective journalist when your editorial arm has already picked a side, and not just picked a side – they’re all in.

I also feel bad for Lynn Nordgren, president of the MFT59. The MPS management isn’t going to sit down at the table and roll up their sleeves and work this out like she’s suggesting they do. They might roll up their sleeves but it won’t be to talk. Lynn, news flash, they’re determined to bust your union.

The MPS management, backed by the Strib, and McKensie and Co., and the Broad Fnd, and the McKnight Fnd, and Bain and Co., and Bill Gates have decided that unionized teachers are the reason that there’s an achievement gap in the MPS and they’re going to change that. Never mind that there’s no solid evidence after more than 20 years to support their claims that charters fix things. Charters have only spotty success at best at closing the gap, but they have great success at undoing union contracts. Charters have destabilized public education by balkanizing large urban districts and re-instituting segregation. Charters operate on a curriculum standard of no technology, no arts, and no sports. Those frills are for small towns, suburbs and private schools. The Brown vs the Board of Education decision was such a quaint old fashioned notion.

From: Laura Waterman Wittstock Date: 2:59pm, May 20

The Strib piece notes: “She wants to promote teacher development and leadership while cutting compensation costs that do not support student learning. And she said about a half-dozen schools will be released from district and contractual rules to operate more independently just like successful charter schools.”

If the Superintendent wants to release schools, then she should go all the way and make them independent charter districts. Her numbers would go down as well, in that case. If the model is to break the district apart, then at some point, no administration would be needed at all. I don’t get the idea that “cutting compensation costs…do not support student learning.” Where is the study supporting this idea? Is there any sphere of work to outcome ratio that is improved by cutting compensation? (other than executive salaries). It is always administration that comes up with these ideas.

And: ” In Minneapolis, charter programs such as Harvest Prep/Seed Academy and Hiawatha Leadership Academy have closed the gap with their students….Thats why Johnson has wisely formed a partnership with Harvest to operate one district school and has plans to expand the model to more schools in the future.”

It is absurd to make district choices based on the work of schools that do not have to teach the broad spectrum of students found in the system. In the case of Harvest Prep, from what I understand, parents have to agree to the methods used by the school. District-wide, that is unlikely to happen. I for one would not agree to rote learning methods for my child and snapping to attention when the teacher comes into the room. Those methods are 19th century, used on immigrant children to teach “factory readiness” so the kids could enter manufacturing futures with civic/patriotic devotion.

On that point, we have to get rid of the 19th century model, whose remains are the real culprit in the school system – agricultural calendars, and less time to learn what is needed for a complex world.


Laura Waterman Wittstock
President and CEO
Wittstock & Associates
913 19th Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
First Person Radio
Enrolled Seneca Nation

From: David Tilsen Date: 3:24pm, May 20

I didn’t see her speech as an attack on the Teacher’s Union, I saw the parts about compensation etc. as an opening salvo in negotiations, so I ignored them.

The parts that I did like however, was the recognition that the entire city must partner with the district in order to solve the current problem. I think a recognition that students are children, and that in the relationship, some of us are adults and some of us are children is important. It is the responsibility of the adults to nurture, protect, educate and lead the children. It is the responsibility of children to learn, respect, rebel, look at old problems with new eyes, and keep the adults honest in the face of the necessary hypocrisy of the adult world. Neither group has an easy task, but it is as it has always been.

Instead of this, we find that children are tear gassed beat up and subjected to demeaning assumptions by the adults, and that the adults who commit themselves to the profession of teaching, or administering the schools are shamed for not being willing to live at the poverty line, or work for significantly less than they can get on the market in other professions with their degrees and experience.

I liked the Superintendent’s call for us to work together and I, for one will take her up on it.

From: Marcea Mariani Date: 7:50pm, May 21

I’d like to suggest we ALL evaluate Supt Johnson’ words VERY carefully. My daughter teaches Junior High English in the newly union-busted state of Wisconsin. All Wisconsin teachers received notifications from their administration (via what are known as “e-mail BLASTS”) for the upcoming year and going forward:

1) 10% REDUCED PAY across the board for all 2) 9% INCREASE in health premiums (The above represents a 19% automatic pay decrease)

3) 10 hours additional work p/month (1/2 hour more per day)

4) Pay periods spread over 12 months no longer an available option (Pay periods apply only to active school weeks)

5) Still awaiting decisions on changes to reductions for: medical coverage, sick days, lane changes, classroom size, etc.


Is our superintendent slowly guiding Minneapolis into a similar direction? May I suggest Minnesota activists begin NOW to inquire if these elements listed above actually help students. We need combat the Wisconsin experience from becoming a Minneapolis reality.

As of May 22, there were 11 posts on this topic. Read the full thread here.