Archives for category: Minneapolis

This story about Minnesota shows the good and the bad effects of school choice.

Betsy DeVos will read it with pleasure. She can now point to Minnesota as an exemplar of school choice, one that fulfills her goals.

Those who care about democratically controlled public schools that have civic obligations, such as diversity, will see it as a nightmare.

The charter schools of Minneapolis are highly segregated and proud of it. The most popular charter school is almost completely Asian. Other charters are almost completely black or overwhelmingly white.

Remember the Brown decision of 1954? Minnesota doesn’t.

The proliferation of charters has forced public schools to cut their budgets, their programs, their staff.

Rob Levine describes in this post the concentration of corporate reformers on Minneapolis, where millions of dollars are pouring in to the city to turn it into the New Orleans of the north, a mecca for charter operators without public schools.

He writes:

In Minneapolis there are now 34 operating charter schools that enroll almost 12,000 students. In St. Paul there are now 37 operating charter schools enrolling more than 13,000 students. By comparison both districts currently enroll about 36,000 students. While it’s obviously true that students who enroll in a charter school in one city don’t necessarily hail from there, the numbers are a good benchmark.

The Walton Family Foundation has started 46% of all open charter schools in Minneapolis

And charter advocates are hard at work enlarging that total, in Minneapolis, at least. The charter advocacy and startup organization Charter School Partners (CSP – now Minnesota Comeback), is in the middle of a five year plan to open 20 new charter schools in Minneapolis. Last year Comeback announced that it had secured $30 million in commitments from philanthropies, which it plans to use to create “… 30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats – particularly for students of color and low-income students” by 2025 in Minneapolis.

Though it has existed for barely a year Comeback has already collected $1.4 million in grants from the Minneapolis,Joyce and WEM (Whitney MacMillan) foundations.

Whatever “rigorous and relevant” means, 30,000 new “seats” in a district that has a student population of about 36,000 students is essentially a plan to kill that public school district. As Alejandra Matos wrote in the Star Tribune a year ago, some Minneapolis education officials “…suspect Minnesota Comeback is out to undermine the traditional public school system by replacing it with a vast network of charter schools, like in New Orleans or Washington, D.C.”

How might that happen? In 2013 Moody’s Investors Services issued a report warning that charter schools could drain enough money from regular school districts to in effect create a mini death spiral. It warned that in response to lost revenue districts might “…cut academic and other programs, reducing service levels and thereby driving students to seek educational alternatives, including charter schools…”

It’s worth remembering that in 2016 the Minneapolis school district experienced an unexpected $20 million shortfall.

So the corporate reformers plan to add “30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats.” Where is the store that sells those seats? Can anyone buy one? Or are those high-quality seats sold only to charter operators?

Funny that so many evaluations show traditional public schools outperforming charter schools, even though the charters say they have a monopoly on those special chairs. Maybe it is because the traditional public schools are staffed by real teachers, not TFA.

A reader writes:

In Minneapolis, Minnesota all four pro public education, teacher endorsed school board candidates won, beating out two incumbents! The first Somali running for state office in the US won election to the MN State House. And the school referendum renewal passed by over 80%.

According to a news story from Minneapolis, scores plunged at some of the best high schools in the city due to students who opted out of the testing.

 

The acting superintendent is upset by the falling scores, but parents are making their voices heard against the deluge of testing that has overtaken their schools. They are protesting the “reforms” based on test scores in the most effective way possible: by not letting their children take the tests.

 

With so many missing scores, the scores are invalid. Before the students opted out, the tests were invalid and unreliable, not available for review by independent experts. Parents know that the absence of transparency by the test-makers in not in the interest of their children and that the tests are designed to fail the majority of students because their passing score is set unrealistically high. Some parents understand that the tests provide little or no diagnostic information about their children (most Common Core tests provide NO diagnostic information, just a score.) Some are protesting the Common Core,  some are protesting the federal takeover of their state and their local schools. Some are protesting the tests themselves. As more students take the tests, the opt out movement will grow.