Student bonfire sheds light on college access

Huddled around a bonfire in Como Park, eating s’mores, 14 college students sat and told each other a different kind of horror story — the story of the state’s achievement gap.The Minnesota Student Power Network’s “MN Fire Up” bonfire invited Minnesota students of color to come talk about the issues affecting their success at school and in the workplace.The student network was created to address issues affecting young students of color in Minnesota, and provide participants with resources and information to help increase their chances of success. The group held their first meeting on Sept. 27 at Como Park in St. Paul in partnership with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and NAACP St. Paul Youth.“Our goals are to connect, support and empower young organizers in Minnesota, focusing on marginalized groups of students,” said Minnesota Student Power Network leader Dua Saleh. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Bringing everybody together for Generation Next

Generation Next has been in the news recently after the organization, led by R.T. Rybak, revealed their  “Action Agenda” about how the they will take steps to close the achievement gap. The nonprofit is modeled after a successful partnership in Cincinnati called Strive Together, which brought together businesses, government leaders, school districts, nonprofits and community groups to breach the disparities between white students and students of color. Rather than embarking on a separate program of their own, Generation Next is building a coalition of different stakeholders and resources. Related articles:Varied Means to Close the Achievement GapBridging the achievement gap: The limits of education reformThe cross-sector approach seems like a smart one. When you look back at moments in Minnesota’s history that were very successful, it was always because of this kind of collaboration and partnerships, when lawmakers, educators, businesses and nonprofits have worked together toward a common goal. That Generation Next has leaders from both Twin Cities school districts, both teachers’ unions, the University of Minnesota and other higher education institutions, the Wilder Foundation and other nonprofits, one charter school, corporate entities, at least one minority-specific organization and the mayor of Saint Paul on its Leadership Council (not to mention being led by the former Mayor of Minneapolis) bodes well for its success.Obviously eliminating the achievement gap is something that almost any Minnesotan can get behind. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Achievement Gap Forum: Modernize schools, implement policies on the books, build community support

Over the years, Minnesota has had many reformers propose ways to close the state’s persistent achievement gap. One key approach is to assertively follow through on the ideas already in law.“We don’t lack for ideas,” said Mary Cecconi, executive director of Parents United. “We suffer from lack of implementation.”Cecconi was one of the panelists discussing the achievement gap and possible areas of consensus on solutions among the many players in the reform area. The other speaking were: Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, Maureen Ramirez, Policy and Research Director for Growth and Justice, and Chris Stewart, executive director of theAfrican American Leadership Forum.The four Achievement Gap forums are sponsored by the Achievement Gap Committee. Want to jump to a particular segment in the video? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Achievement Gap Forum: We need a culture that embraces the belief that “All kids can learn,” but how do we get there?

There is general agreement that to close Minnesota’s achievement gap we need to create a school culture that embraces the idea that all children can learn—that achievement is not based on race, culture or income. But there are different ideas on how to get there.Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership, emphasized solutions that focused on school personnel and accountability—including setting high expectations for all students, making sure schools have great leaders and great teachers, and providing more information to parents that measures school performance.The four Achievement Gap forums are sponsored by the Achievement Gap Committee. Want to jump to a particular segment in the video? Here are the links:IntroductionMN Association of School AdministratorsMinnesota Business PartnershipMinnesota Minority Education PartnershipOrganizing Apprenticship ProjectQuestion and Answer SessionNelima Sitati of the Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) and Jennifer Godinez of theMinnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP), emphasized involving communities of color in developing any solution. OAP “believes communities of color are the experts in what their experiences are, and the experts in knowing what they require,” Sitati said. “People of color need to be at the forefront of coming up with the solutions that are going to make their children more successful.”Bartholomew, Sitati, and Godinez spoke at the second of four forums sponsored by the Minnesota Achievement Gap Committee. Continue Reading

St. Paul teachers’ union head advocates ‘solution-driven’ approach to close gaps

St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) president Mary Cathryn Ricker spelled out her union’s new proposal, called the “Schools St. Paul Children Deserve” at an Achievement Gap Committee (AGC) forum on October 23. Ricker handed out the proposal at the forum, and explained that it is based on seven core principles, which were developed over the course of a few months by the union and citizen groups in St. Paul. The SPFT has been using the “Schools St. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | How I got over: Why I went from defending the teachers’ union to pushing for education reform

I didn’t start out on the education reform side. In fact, if you had asked me about the achievement gap 10-12 years ago, I sounded a lot like the teachers’ union. Because I think personal stories are important, here’s how and why I changed. First, a brief history: I grew up in Arden Hills, MN, graduated from Mounds View Public Schools. Got my first union card in high school. (Thank you, Amalgamated Meat Cutters.) Went to college. Continue Reading