Grad students oppose potential University of Minnesota and Teach for America partnership

As the University of Minnesota considers a partnership with Teach for America, a group of graduate students from the University’s College of Education and Human Development wrote a No TFA at the U statement. Asking for signatures from their fellow students and the general public, the students posted their statement June 25 on a newly-created blog of the same name.Erin Dyke, one of the eleven graduate students who wrote the statement, sees the University’s proposed partnership with TFA as a “major compromise of the mission and values” of the University’s College of Education and its teacher prep programs. She contrasted the five-week summer training TFA recruits get before becoming classroom teachers with the University’s one year student teacher residency program for their traditional students, and feels that TFA is part of “decimating” job opportunities for traditionally licensed teachers who graduate from programs like the University’s.By June 30, more than 150 students, teachers, and alumni from the University, the Twin Cities, and national education circles have signed the No TFA at the U statement (below). The full page statement ends by calling on the University to overlook any “short-term” financial gains a partnership with TFA could bring, and instead asks the University to say no to what the group calls the “opportunistic, trendy, and short-sighted education ‘reform’” efforts of TFA. Collective Statement Opposing TFA PartnershipWe are writing to collectively voice our concern and opposition to the proposed partnership between the University of Minnesota and Teach for America (TFA). We are surprised that the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) would consider partnering with TFA, given the lack of support on the part of Curriculum and Instruction faculty and many others in CEHD, its decreasing support from the State Board of Education (who denied providing the organization its 45 temporary teaching licenses), and the numerous teacher education scholars whodenounce TFA. With the lack of evidence that TFA actually improves the lives or learning environments of students most vulnerable to exploitation (e.g., urban children/youth of color/poverty), we can only guess that this partnership is primarily one of business.We believe that this partnership offers unearned legitimacy to a significantly flawed and powerful force in education, one which sends underprepared teachers into communities of students already often marginalized by the education system. Continue Reading

Traditional Hmong culture or mainstream academics? Hmong International Academy, in Minneapolis, says yes to both

Hmong International Academy’s challenge is also its solution. The Minneapolis district school, which has struggled with low test scores from its inception five years ago, is a school, in part by design, that has an almost entirely minority population, and a very high poverty rate. But principal Andy Xiong sees the school’s focus on Hmong language and culture as a way to support its goals to improve what he calls “mainstream academics”— in other words, test scores in math, reading and science.

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Are Minnesota schools supporting black students? Minnesota Alliance of Black School Educators hears parent, community distress.

About 30 community members, including several former educators, attended the August 8 community public hearing sponsored by the Minnesota Alliance of Black School Educators.  Some expressed anger and disagreement with the effectiveness of current practices and strategies in Minneapolis Public Schools. They were confused as to how new programs would help and just how their involvement would increase effectiveness as they’ve not really been given the voice that MABSE is promising them.The August 8 hearing at the Minneapolis Urban League was hosted by Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, Minnesota Department of Education commissioner Brenda Cassellius and MABSE president Francine Chakolis as speakers. As the Minneapolis Public School district is a member of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, Johnson spoke of the district’s connection and ongoing partnership with MABSE. The hearing was the first of three in a series titled “Reclaiming our Village from the Pipeline to the Penitentiary.”Community members at the meeting had a variety of connections with Minneapolis Public Schools. Continue Reading

What’s at stake: Getting to a teacher contract in Minneapolis Public Schools

“One of the most serious menaces we have at the present time in public education is that of insisting upon equal pay and automatic increases, irrespective of teaching efficiency.” So said Lotus D. Coffman, speaking on November 16, 1919 to the Minneapolis Federation of Women Teachers. Coffman, then Dean of the College of Education and later president of the University of Minnesota warned teachers of the dangers of unions and seniority.What’s at stake: Minneapolis teacher contracts and beyond is a TC Daily Planet series looking at the 2011-2012 teacher contract negotiations in Minneapolis Public Schools. The first articles in the series focus on the contract process and participants, tenure and seniority, evaluation and discipline, and “high-priority” schools.While the “achievement gap” wasn’t part of the general vocabulary in 1919, the resistance to the idea of seniority staffing that Coffman voiced is still an issue. As reported in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Coffman continued: “It is a well known and easily established fact that teachers teaching in the same grade and teaching the same subject may differ greatly as to their services. Our slogan should not be equal pay for equal work, if by that we mean equivalence of position, but equal pay for equal work of equal worth.”During the past century, the union has fought for the rights of teachers — not just for pay, but for length of the school year, the right to have collective bargaining, rights against discrimination, etc. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | The First to Master the Challenge

Aquila Tapio, Oglala Lakota, was determined to finish what she opted to start in the fall of 2008. She entered the new Naadamaadiwin, “Helping One Another” Tribal Special Education program at Augsburg College and will be the first student through the program to obtain her master’s degree.Although Tapio acknowledges her academic notoriety, what is most evident is her humble demeanor and longstanding focus on helping people. She began her studies after moving to the Twin Cities when she was 18. Her initial two-year degree quickly led to a four-year degree from the University of Minnesota, then a paralegal certificate from Hamline University and finally a teaching certificate and a forthcoming master’s degree from Augsburg College. Tapio is currently enrolled in her final course. Continue Reading

School Cafeterias make efforts to buy from local farms

A few school districts in Minnesota have been recognized recently for their efforts in creating healthier, more locally grown meals for school lunches. In March, St. Paul Schools will complete its 18 month pilot program in finding new and innovative ways to create a more local, sustainable and healthy school lunch program. Continue Reading

YOUR TURN | Diversity, integration, segregation in Minneapolis Public Schools

Minneapolis Public Schools administration has proposed shifting away from citywide busing and towards community schools, beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. The administration is still revising details of the Changing School Options plan in the upcoming months, however the plan will most likely make major changes to citywide busing and magnet schools. The push towards zoning and community schools brings up major questions about segregation and diversity in Minneapolis public schools.This is the last in a series of TCDP forum articles on the implications of the Changing School Options plan, including on citywide busing and on magnet schools.  WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!Which of these opinions do you agree/disagree with? Why? • The Story• Keep citywide busing for integration• Integration is not the answer• Integration can’t be left to schools aloneChanging School OptionsMinneapolis Public Schools is facing both budgetary and educational challenges. Continue Reading