MN Races to the Top

Nine states will share $500 million in grant money won in a high-profile competition intended to jump-start improvements in early childhood programs. The Obama administration recently announced that Minnesota, California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington state will see funding for innovative efforts in often-overlooked pre-K schooling.


The Text Revolution

Texting is on the rise, especially among teenagers age 13 to 17. According to an article in MashableTech.com, the average teenager now sends 3,339 texts per month. That’s more than six texts per waking hour. Teen females send an incredible 4,050 texts per month, while teen males send an average of 2,539 texts. Teens are sending 8% more texts than they were this time last year.

Other age groups don’t even come close

While voice may be on the decline, data and app usage is on the rise. Data usage among teens has quadrupled, from 14 MB to 62 MB per month. In a role reversal, teen males use more data than their female counterparts: 75 MB vs. 53 MB of data. App and software downloads also increased by 12% among teens in the past year.


We Remember

The great American actor, James Arness is famously known for his portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon in the television series Gunsmoke. He played the role for over twenty years. Of Norwegian and German heritage, the man originally named James Aursnes was born and raised in Minneapolis – as was his younger brother, the similarly acclaimed actor, Peter Graves. Graves died in 2010. James Arness died in June of this year.


ACLU Pursues Charter School Lawsuit

KARE-11 News reports that the ACLU of Minnesota has recently released hundreds of documents from its ongoing lawsuit against the charter school -- Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy. Charter schools in Minnesota are publicly funded and must be nonsectarian.

The ACLU's lawsuit is based on the legal claim that the school used taxpayer money to promote Islam.

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, or TIZA, has been fighting the allegations since unfortunate events first erupted in 2008. The Inver Grove Heights charter school closed before the 2011-2012 academic year. Its assets are now tied up in a pending bankruptcy case.


Half of MN Schools Fail

The Minnesota Department of Education has released a stunning state report card for 2011. Nearly half (47 percent) of Minnesota schools didn't make the grade under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

School teachers and administrators have plenty of excuses to explain away the situation. Certainly some of the excuses and complaints about NCLB are valid. However, by any measure -- Minnesota is obviously facing systemic failure.


Faith in Public Schools

Just 34 percent of Americans say they have faith in the public school system, an all-time low. Many of them say budget troubles are to blame, but they also think better teachers would fix the problem.


Testing Out

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan
talks with students during a visit to
Dayton's Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary School

Time Magazine reports that state and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law.


LGBTQ Discrimination Alleged

The Justice Department and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights are looking into "allegations of harassment and discrimination in the Anoka-Hennepin School District based on sex, including peer-on-peer harassment based on not conforming to gender stereotypes," according to a district memo obtained by CNN.

The federal investigation comes after a string of seven student suicides in less than two years, which stirred public debate over the district's sexual orientation curriculum policy. Parents and friends say four of those students were either gay, perceived to be gay or questioning their sexuality and reports are that at least two of them were bullied over their sexuality.

It is unclear whether the suicides or the policy are a significant part of the federal investigation, reporters Poppy Harlow and Emily Probst write on CNN.com.

The district's controversial policy, adopted in 2009, states that staff must "remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation" and that "such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations."The head of the Anoka-Hennepin school district told CNN the policy reflects a community divided over homosexuality.


Lack of Progress Report

Nearly 4,900 high school seniors might not graduate in Minnesota because they have not passed state-mandated reading or writing tests. The shocking number amounts to about 8 percent of all seniors tested. Even more stunning -- it shows no improvement from last year's results.

The students are allowed to retake the tests after waiting six weeks.



Star-Trib writer Daarel Burnette reports that school administrators estimate the St. Paul school board will have to lay off hundreds of employees and cut multiple programs in an effort to meet an anticipated $25 million shortfall next year. Administrators put most of the blame on legislators who have proposed deep cuts in the state's public school systems this session. St. Paul Superintendent Silva: "We did not expect that St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth schools would be targeted in the way that we have been targeted this legislative session."


Giving Back

Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that four Minnesota businesses announced a collaboration that holds promise to make an even greater impact on Minneapolis kids. For the first time, Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic and Target wisely joined forces to provide a total of more than $13 million in grants to the Minneapolis district.

Donors worked with Minneapolis school district leaders to identify areas that are known to expedite student achievement. Speeding that progress is crucial for Minneapolis schools; 70 percent of the district's 32,000 students are of color, and 65 percent are lower-income. Like many urban districts, Minneapolis has large learning disparities between many minority and white students.

The grants are part of the general trend among Minnesota foundations to refocus their education, giving with an eye on producing better results for students.

Learn more . . .  


Professor James A. Banks

James A. Banks has been a researcher and leader in efforts to increase educational equality for all students in the United States and the world for more than three decades. As a fifth grade teacher in Chicago, then as a graduate student at Michigan State University, as a professor at the University of Washington beginning in 1969, Banks has pursued questions related to education, racial inequality, and social justice in more than 100 journal articles and 20 books. James Banks is at UW's Center for Multicultural Education. On March 3, he gave an address on his latest work: Democracy, Diversity and Social Justice: Education in a Global Age.


Stop Bullying

Did you know that 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school? StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how students, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.

Risk Factors of LGBT Bullying

Young LGBT people may be more at-risk for bullying. Compared to their heterosexual peers, some LGBT kids, teens and young adults are at increased risk for bullying, teasing, harassment, physical assault, and suicide-related behaviors.

Over a ten-year period more than 7,000 LGBT middle and high school students (aged 13-21), were surveyed. The results were published in The 2009 National School Climate Survey. The survey found that in the preceding year, because of their sexual orientation:
  • Eight in ten LGBT students had been verbally harassed at school
  • Four in ten had been physically harassed at school
  • Six in ten felt unsafe at school
  • One in five had been the victim of a physical assault at school
Unfortunately, these types of experiences with violence also occur outside of school and may continue into young adulthood.

Young LGBT people may be more at-risk for sexual discrimination and bias. Young LGBT individuals may be bullied as a part of sexual/gender discrimination and bias by their schoolmates, ethnic or religious groups or by other societal concerns related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

More information is available at: StopBullying.gov


Video Math Revolution!

Salman Khan is using the web to teach math and science to millions.

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. The free website allows visitors to browse 2000 instructional videos by topic. Khan's videos are simple, straight-forward and fun, and if you don't get something -- just rewind.


Obama Keeps Focus on Education & Technology

This week, President Obama took his case for investing in education and innovation out west, where he toured Intel's semiconductor manufacturing facility and met with student scientists.

"We can't win the future if we lose the race to educate our children," the President said in a speech. "In today's economy, the quality of nation's education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation's success. It is what will determine whether the American Dream survives."


Insulted by Natalie Munroe

Natalie Munroe, a teacher at Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, Pa., was suspended last week after posting profanity-laced rants online which called her students "out of control" and "disengaged, lazy whiners."

"I don't think I did anything wrong," Monroe told ABC news.

The school's superintendent told reporters the comments were "very egregious" and "certainly could result in termination." The 30-year-old, who started teaching in 2006, began blogging in 2009 using the name "Natalie M." Although she did not identify students or staff by name, her photo appeared on the website.

  • "I'm being a renegade right now, living on the edge and, um, blogging AT work."
  • "I'm in the process of entering grades, and also need to enter comments for the grades. . . . I used to put a lot of time and effort into the comments because I felt it was a great way to communicate the students' efforts. Then it got to be a complete pain in the %$$, just one more thing standing between me and being done with the report cards."
  • “whiny simpering grade-grubbers with an unrealisti­cally high perception of own ability level.”
  • "A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities."
  • "Asked too many questions and took too long to ask them."
  • "One of the most annoying students I've had the displeasur­e of being locked in a room with for an extended time."
  • "dresses like a streetwalker"
  • "frightfully dim"
  • "Rude, beligerent (SP), argumentative %$#$.”

Teachers' personal beliefs shape their professional practice. That's where the concept of a "self-fulf­illing prophecy" comes into play.

Here this teacher was -- going to work every day -- looking for "lazy" students and "out of control" behavior so she could keep her blog going. She was, consciously or unconsciou­sly, creating the bad behavior she was complaining about.

Munroe had only been teaching for a few years when she started openly blogging about how dim-witted and worthless the children were. Clearly, she entered the profession with these horrifying attitudes. Of course the children rebelled and misbehaved. Amazingly, it never crossed this adult's mind that she was responsible -- not the "worthless" children.

This teacher -- and many, many others just like her -- are completely unaware of the research which shows that a teacher's belief that a student will succeed plays a critical role in student achievement.

"The students are rude and dim-witted" she rudely announced in a blog with her own picture and first name attached. Well that wasn't very smart, was it teacher?

"The trash company is hiring" she notes about her students -- so why doesn't Natalie Munroe opt out of the suspension with pay and go put in an application?


Invisible Students

"When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you ... when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul -- and not just individual strength, but collective understanding -- to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard."

-- Adrienne Rich


Minnesota's New Math

Minnesota ranked fifth in student funding in 1970 but now sits at 36th in a recent school quality national report.

"We've been slipping for a while," said Brenda Cassellius, the new education commissioner. "I don't think that's what Minnesotans want."

Education funding makes up nearly half of the state budget that is facing a $6 billion projected shortfall.

The following is from a Jan 27, Star-Tribune article headlined:

"We're at a time now where there are no more escape hatches," said Brad Lundell, director of Schools for Equity in Education. SEE, a group of 58 districts, is threatening to sue the state if funding inequities aren't fixed this year.

Minnesota's system survived a legal challenge nearly 20 years ago during easier budgetary times. But that 1993 state Supreme Court ruling also said that every student has a fundamental right to equal education. But how is that possible when the money's dried up?

The answer to that question will directly affect the state's more than 830,000 students and 52,000 teachers.

A new cast of political players will decide the issue. Gov. Mark Dayton taught school 40 years ago and has vowed to stand between the ax and education funding. But the Republican takeover makes the Legislature less beholden to the once-powerful 70,000-member teachers' union, which historically endorses DFLers.


Barbara Washington -- UTP Appontment!

Barbara Washington was recently appointed interim Executive Director of the Urban Teacher Program in the Metropolitan State University College of Professional Studies.

Barbara is an excellent professor and highly qualified for the position. She holds a B.A. in elementary education from Concordia and an M.A. in educational administration from the U of M. She is a UTP steering committee founding member and continues to serve Metro State as a community faculty member and student teacher supervisor.

According to MSU's Catalyst, Ms. Washington will hold the post for a fixed term of one year. Among her many other duties, Barbara will be responsible for leading the UTP toward its mission: increasing the number of teachers of color in urban schools. 

The UTP is extremely lucky to now have the guidance of 


Wish List

What if Picasso never had a paint brush?
What if Madame Curie never had a test tube?

ClassWish.org is a nonprofit site
where parents, teachers and communities easily unite
to provide the classroom resources our children need.


New Year, New Direction

Governor-elect Mark Dayton has announced that Dr. Brenda Cassellius will lead Minnesota's Department of Education. She becomes the first African American to head the department. Dr. Cassellius has spent 20 years as a teacher, administrator and superintendent in Minnesota and Tennessee. She is currently Superintendent of the East Metro Integration District.