Parents not thrilled with Minneapolis Public Schools five-year enrollment plan meeting

Approximately sixty parents and community members turned out to listen to Area A Assistant Superintendent Michael Thomas explain the Minneapolis Public Schools’ new five-year enrollment plan. The October 1 community engagement meeting was held at Anwatin Middle School in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. The focus of this meeting was on Area A, Zone 1, which is in North Minneapolis. Changes under the plan will affect Sheridan, North High, the Davis Center, Cityview and Lincoln schools, as well as Hmong International Academy, Minneapolis College Preparatory and Pierre Bottineau French Immersion school. (See Zone 1 Recommended Changes – PDF document attached.)Thomas used a Powerpoint to introduce key points of the plan, taking a few questions from the audience as he went. Continue Reading

Minneapolis family finds global learning opportunities at Windom Dual Immersion School

A new school year has just begun at Windom Dual Immersion School in south Minneapolis, and second grader Libby Bures and her sister Josie, who is starting kindergarten, will be there. The two girls will be learning Spanish along with the usual academic subjects, and this is ultimately a significant part of what led their parents, Bridgit Jordan and Frank Bures, to choose Windom for their children.The way Bridgit Jordan sees it, the Minneapolis public schools offer “great and diverse choices” to parents. Although she is appreciative of these choices, Jordan says that she and her husband Frank Bures also found the school choice process to be “overwhelming.”As they searched for a school for their oldest daughter, Libby, a few years ago, Jordan recalls touring schools and not being sure “what to pay attention to.” There was seemingly so much to factor in to the decision, such as “learning philosophies, principals, gut feelings,” and what parents and kids “had to say about the school.”Finally, what won Jordan and Bures over to Windom was the small size of the school, which made it seem accessible and welcoming, and the fact that it is a dual immersion school, meaning students at the school can become fluent in both Spanish and English. As Jordan put it, “Our children would leave the program fluent in another language, opening doors for their future.”Since becoming a Windom School family, Jordan and Bures have been impressed with what they’ve found. Jordan describes a school community where “all of the teachers have connected with us and our children in a very personal way” through hugs, emails, and visits outside of regular school hours. Continue Reading

Winning the school lottery: Minneapolis family chooses Clara Barton

When it came time to choose a school for her two children, Minneapolis resident Jody King knew where she wanted them to be: Clara Barton Open School in southwest Minneapolis. For King, getting her kids into Barton felt like “winning the lottery.” That’s exactly what the school choice process for Minneapolis magnet schools uses for schools that, like Clara Barton, have more applicants than spaces.FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this article is also a Barton parent.King wanted a K-8 school, and one that provided a “nurturing, safe place,” for her son, Anthony, and her daughter, Maya. What she found at Barton was a “supportive community of families and teachers.” Some unique aspects of Barton’s Open School focus were especially attractive. Students at Barton, for example, stay with their classroom teacher for two years in first-sixth grades, and King ended up seeing the benefits of this longer connection between teacher and child.Seventh and eighth grade students at Barton often pair up with early primary students in a “buddy” system. The older kids are matched with a younger child for the whole school year, and they spend time reading books together, getting to know one another, and doing some classroom work as a team. Continue Reading

Too hot to learn? Patrick Henry students speak out in Minneapolis

At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27, students spilled out of Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, hands waving in front of their faces like makeshift fans. It was hot outside, and maybe even hotter inside Henry’s nearly 100-year-old building.At a press conference called by north Minneapolis non-profit Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), along with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, organizers spoke about how the early start date for Minneapolis schools has impacted students and staff during this late August heat wave.No teachers showed up to speak at the press conference, but students had plenty to say. Sophomore Laura Sosa and her friend, junior Karen Miranda, said the school was “really hot,” which made them “tired” during the school day. Both girls said that some classrooms had temperatures of over 99 degrees, and that teachers “were complaining” about this.Sosa and Miranda also were grateful for the Gatorade-type water jugs provided by the district. Each filled their own water bottles several times during the day with the district-provided water.Also speaking outside the school was freshman Shaheed Bell, who said that the heat made students “not very productive.” Shaheed said that, while he didn’t think the lack of air conditioning was “unfair,” given how old the Henry building is, he does think school should start “after Labor Day.” Bell said it was so hot inside the school that no one could concentrate on their work.Senior Todd Riser also spoke out, saying students were “drowsy,” and “didn’t want to work.” According to Riser, a chemistry teacher told the students that their classroom temperature was “over 100 degrees.” In Riser’s view, such intense heat made it hard to concentrate.Anthony Newby, who is the executive director of NOC, called the press conference to raise awareness of equity issues. Continue Reading

What’s next for Minneapolis Washburn High School?

Washburn High School has had a tough year. During the 2012-2013 school year, high profile student misconduct with racist overtones, student protests, and a dispute between the athletic director and principal led to the sudden removal of principal Carol Markham Cousins. In the aftermath of these incidents, many in the Washburn community in Minneapolis anxiously wondered who would become the school’s new principal.On August 1, the Minneapolis Public School district announced that Patrick Exner, who had been working as an administrator at Ubah Medical Academy charter school in Hopkins, would be Washburn’s new principal. By August 8, he was removed from the job amid allegations that he falsified test scores in his previous post at Ubah Medical Academy, and later disclosures that his resumé contained some exaggerations.This rolling tide of events led the district to hold a community meeting at Washburn on Thursday, August 15, in order to address the hiring and immediate firing of Exner, and to assure community members that the school will be ready to welcome students for the 2013-2014 school year. About 200 parents and community members gathered in the Washburn gym to hear from Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, parent leaders, and interim Washburn principal Linda Conley, among others.Sarah Lahm attended the August 15 meeting both as a Washburn parent and as a reporter. Continue Reading

Southwest Minneapolis principal on evaluations: Every teacher, every year

“Every teacher deserves written feedback each year,” says Bill Smith, principal at Southwest High School in Minneapolis. He sees the evaluation process as a way for each staff member at Southwest to assess teaching and learning and ask, “How can we do it better?” rather than being “just about teachers keeping their jobs.”Here’s an example of how it works. Last year, a successful teacher asked Smith for help in improving student transitions from one activity to another. Smith visited the classroom to observe for 30 minutes, and then “dropped in” twice during different class periods. Then he offered suggestions about class traffic patterns and class flow, and connected the teacher to others in the building who had similar teaching styles. Continue Reading

Minneapolis teacher on what works, what doesn’t in teacher evaluation

Minneapolis Public Schools teacher Caroline Hooper is not against teacher evaluations. She wants the feedback and opportunities for growth that an evaluation process can bring about. However, she wants the evaluations to be used as a “tool,” and not a “hoop” that must be jumped through.At Minneapolis’ Southwest High School, where Hooper teaches AP Government and in a college readiness program called AVID, she describes what she sees as the logistical nightmare of the new teacher evaluation system implemented in the 2012-13 school year. At Southwest, there are 125 teachers and four administrators. Each principal is responsible for evaluating thirty teachers. Continue Reading

No more lemmings: Minneapolis mayoral candidate Don Samuels on education

If Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels becomes the next mayor of Minneapolis, he promises that students in his city will not be allowed to “walk like lemmings into failing classrooms.” At a casual “meet the candidate” event held Wednesday, July 17 at the southwest Minneapolis home of David and Kate Mortenson, Samuels gave a short speech about three key issues—economic development, education and public safety—but received the most interest for his views on Minneapolis schools and how to improve them.About 70 friends and neighbors of the Mortensons, along with some interested citizens and supporters of Samuels, turned out on this sweltering July night to listen to Samuels’ ideas and ask questions about his positions. Samuels was the first of four main DFL candidates running for mayor to be invited to speak with voters at a Minneapolis home or office setting. These events were organized by Kate Mortenson, who wanted to give people who may not normally attend fundraisers a “free chance” to get an up close look at those vying to take over for RT Rybak, who is not running for re-election. Following Samuels, Mark Andrew, Jackie Cherryhomes and Betsy Hodges will be presenting themselves to these informal groups of potential supporters. The format was a brief introduction to Ranked Choice Voting, followed by the hosts explaining the event and introducing the candidate. Then the candidate spoke on the three issues, followed by questions from the audience. Continue Reading

Hamline and Teach for America as partners: A mixed review

Teach for America is currently in talks with Hamline University about the partnership the two share, as TFA conducts its summer training “Institutes” in locations around the United States. For now, the TFA/Hamline partnership will continue, but TFA is also hoping to partner with the University of Minnesota, possibly in order to locate a training institute in Minnesota.TFA and Hamline have been partners since 2009, when TFA first came to Minnesota.  Since that time, according to Hamline, 152 TFA recruits have enrolled in the program, and “more than 140” of them have completed the two year commitment. TFA’s public relations person, Jackie Primeau, offered slightly different numbers, saying that “We had 142 corps members total enter classrooms in the Twin Cities from 2009 through 2011 and 120 completed their two year commitment.” These numbers, from Hamline and TFA, do not include the 39 TFA corps members who worked in Minneapolis classrooms in 2012.Hamline University’s School of Education acts as a host for TFA recruits; they enroll in a post-baccalaureate program and work on obtaining licensure while working as TFA-trained classroom teachers. TFA recruits are required to become traditionally licensed teachers through Hamline by the time their two-year TFA commitment ends. Continue Reading