‘Creepy’ and ‘invasive’ school district survey revised for 2013-2014

“We all feel like a family.”“My teacher is distracted by other children.”“What adults do you live with?” (Followed by a list of options)These are examples of the questions and statements given to all Minneapolis Public Schools students, in grades K-12, last year, as part of the district’s use of the Tripod Project. The Tripod Project, which is based on Harvard Professor Ron Ferguson’s work, is a survey given to students in order to gather information about students, their teachers, and what goes on in classrooms across the district.Ferguson originally created the Tripod survey as a way to assess whether what he called the “7Cs Framework of Effective Teaching” was taking place in schools. These “7Cs” are based on what Ferguson sees as important teaching practices, such as showing “care” for students, practicing good “control” in the classroom, and delivering lessons that “captivate” students. The Tripod survey grew out of this framework, and asks students to agree with statements and answer questions, such as the ones listed above.For Minneapolis Public Schools teacher Flory Sommers, asking students how they feel about school is a good idea, but she has been critical of the approach favored by the district, through the Tripod Project. For Sommers, telling kids we “care about what they think,” and then giving them a survey that has no open-ended questions, and, in her opinion, many values-laden, leading questions and statements, is problematic.Sommers, who has been a teacher for 32 years, and has worked both at Emerson Spanish Immersion School and Barton Open School as a Spanish and language arts teacher, vividly recalled a kindergarten teacher describing what it was like to give the survey to her young students: One boy, when asked who he lived with, burst into tears, and told the teacher that his father had just moved out. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Brother Ali visits student protesters at Macalester College

Minnesota-based hip hop artist, Brother Ali, made an impromptu visit to a group of student activists protesting the administration’s relationship with Wells Fargo bank on Wednesday. Brother Ali, who continues to be active in the Occupy Homes MN movement, spoke to the students on the steps of Weyerhaeuser, Macalester College’s administrative building.The contingent of student protesters is associated with Occupy Homes MN and opposes the college’s partnership with Wells Fargo due to the bank’s foreclosure practices. The students launched a sit-in earlier this week, occupying the administrative building since 10 a.m., Tuesday.“What we’re really supposed to be doing is educating leaders for the future,” said Ali of higher education, “so what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”He added, “Students were the bulk of energy in the civil rights movement; students ended the war in Vietnam effectively; students have done a whole lot throughout time, and so this is a part of a legacy that you’re adding onto.”The student group brought their grievances to the attention of the administration months ago, beginning a yearlong dialogue about potential divestment from Wells Fargo and a reallocation of funds to a community bank. Dissatisfied with the pace of reform, the students issued a deadline to the administration for a final decision to be announced on Thursday, April 18.In response to the demands Macalester CFO, David Wheaton and Assistant Vice President for Finance, Kate Walker released a memo on behalf of the administration describing in detail their reasons for maintaining their business with Wells Fargo. While accurate data is difficult to access, they acknowledged that Wells Fargo may be the biggest forecloser in the state of Minnesota, but added that this may be a factor of Wells Fargo’s large market share, as opposed to a matter of aggressive policies particular to the bank.The memo noted that 70% of Wells Fargo’s mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that those institutions are responsible for setting policy regarding foreclosure. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Henry High Hmong Student Assaulted, Knocked Out Using City Bus From School To Home

 On January 28, a Henry high student was assaulted and knocked unconscious at a bus stop while using the Go-To Card city bus pass between school and home.He was hospitalized, and was diagnosed with a concussion.  He is now suffering bouts of memory loss along with problems with balance:  he has fallen twice.He does not know the attackers, and no arrests have yet been made.He and his brothers say that they also know other Henry students who have had problems with the city bus:  One was held up at gun point and had his phone robbed while waiting for a city bus to go to school, and two girls were touched/groped while using city buses between Henry and  home.  One of the girls has since transferred to another school.Another family says that  Two Henry Hmong brothers were waiting at the bus stop for the city bus to take them to school.  A young man walked up to the bus stop.  The brothers thought he was going to wait for the bus with them.  Instead he punched one brother in the nose, and the other in the eye, and ran away before either brother could reactThe family of the assault victim who was knocked out  has said that if the attackers are not caught, they want the Minneapolis Public Schools to pay for his hospital and medical costs, because they say this attack would not have happened if he had been riding a school bus home.Last April, Minneapolis Public Schools announced they were ending school bus rides to 5 high schools including Henry, and replacing the school buses with the Go-To card city bus rides.  Henry Hmong families,  concerned about safety and wanting to give Hmong families a chance to learn about and feel  comfortable with  the Go-To card, asked that the city bus rides be instituted this year as an option with school bus rides available.  School board members agreed to run limited school buses for the first semester.  School buses ended in mid-January.Both the assault victim and his mother testified in front of the Minneapolis school board last summer and urged them to keep school bus rides at Henry high for the 2012-2013 school year.Henry Hmong students collected hundreds of post cards urging school board members to keep school buses for 2012-2013 school year1100 postcards were sent to school board members Ellison and MonserrateThe student who was assaulted and knocked out asked the  Minneapolis school board last summer to keep school buses at Henry for 2012-2013 school yearHenry Hmong Families crowded Minneapolis School Board Chambers last summer and asked that school buses be available for 2012-2013 school year Continue Reading


There are only so many things that will get a college student motivated enough to wake up at 7:00 on a Saturday morning and walk 5k on an autumn day in Minnesota when it is barely above freezing te

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Obama looks to up student loans

As tuition costs for college students soar, President Barack Obama has proposed a blueprint for aiding students’ financial woes.As Obama prepares his proposed budget, which he’ll reveal next week, he has introduced several initiatives to make college more affordable.Last week, the president proposed an increase in campus-based funds like Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Perkins Loans and the Work-Study program by $10 billion annually. The Perkins Loan budget would increase from $1 billion to $8 billion and, according to the plan, would not be an additional cost to taxpayers.Perkins Loans are low-interest loans provided to low-income students.In a Jan. 27 speech at the University of Michigan, Obama said college is no longer a privilege for some, but rather a prerequisite for all.Obama also called on the states to do their part in higher education reform.“Higher education is not a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama said. “We’re telling the states, ‘If you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.’”Congressional Republicans have been critical of the plan and have questioned where the funding would come from, fearing taxpayers would get stuck paying for it. Continue Reading

Exciting year to share other cultures

Have you ever wanted to visit another country but don’t have the time or money to travel?

Have you ever thought about hosting a foreign exchange student? 

This is a great way to learn about another country, their culture, traditions, and values while showing them about your way of life, customs,  and family.

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FREE SPEECH ZONE | BBB offers seven tips for college-bound students to fight identity theft

College students have enough to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social life, and fighting fraud often doesn’t make the list of priorities. Because college students are so susceptible to identity theft, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) recommends that they take simple steps to protect themselves on campus.  According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11 million people became victims of identity theft in 2009. Young adults aged 18-24 took the longest to detect identity theft-132 days on average-when compared to other age groups. Subsequently the average cost ($1,156) was roughly five times more than amount lost by other age groups. “Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. Continue Reading

Students riot in Dinkytown

Over several hours Saturday evening and into Sunday morning, more than 500 students took to the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Seventh Street Southeast near the University of Minnesota in a contained party-turned-riot that culminated in heavy police presence and 12 arrests. Student reactions to Dinkytown Riot … With camera in hand, Robbins headed to the scene. The computer science junior was there for about 30 seconds, he said, when without warning police shot him in the groin with a paint canister and tackled him to the ground. … Continue Reading

Students react to Dinkytown Riot

Peter Robbins lives a block away from the epicenter of Saturday night’s party-turned-riot. And when he heard police showed up, he said the photojournalist in him kicked in — he needed to document it. Students riot in Dinkytown

With camera in hand, Robbins headed to the scene. The computer science junior was there for about 30 seconds, he said, when without warning police shot him in the groin with a paint canister and tackled him to the ground. That was at 11:30 p.m., about a half hour after riot police first came. Continue Reading