Archives for category: Minnesota

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%.

A reader sent this announcement:

BREAKING news from MINNESOTA
CEHD Dean’s Office 
cehddean@umn.edu to CEHD-OFFICIAL 
November 7, 2016
Dear CEHD Faculty and Staff Members:
We are reaching out to you today with an important message related to one of our teacher licensure programs in our college.
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development’s alternative pathway to teaching program for Teach for America corps members will not be renewing the contract we have with TFA. This means that we will not admit new corps members to a 2017 cohort. Reasons for ending the partnership program include an unsustainable funding model for the program and dwindling numbers of corps members.<br 
Corps members currently in the TFA program who are part of the 2015 and 2016 cohorts will continue in their high-quality, University preparation to enable them to be recommended for teacher licensure in May 2017 and 2018, respectively. We appreciate the opportunity we have had to learn from the corps members and this partnership.
This decision will not impact the many other teacher licensure programs and pathways at the University of Minnesota. We are committed to providing multiple pathway programs to teaching. We believe that the best use of our limited resources in moving forward is to focus on innovative curriculum development and ways to prepare teachers in partnership with our K-12 colleagues. As a land-grant research institution, we are committed to working side-by-side with K-12 educators to ensure that teachers are prepared and then supported in their early years of teaching. We will work to prepare teachers who teach in multiple school settings—including rural and high-need schools—so they can meet the needs of Minnesota’s children.
Research indicates that programs such as the Minneapolis Residency Program (MRP), developed with Minneapolis Public Schools to grow their own talent pool of teachers; the Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD) Program for special education teaching aides, created with K-12 colleagues across several districts; and the Dual Language and Immersion licensure program for elementary teachers across multiple school districts are the most promising routes to preparing and retaining diverse, high-quality teachers.
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us (Deborah Dillon at dillon@umn.edu).
Sincerely,
Jean K. Quam, CEHD Dean

Deborah R. Dillon, CEHD Associate Dean

College of Education and Human Development

University of Minnesota

104 Burton Hall

Minneapolis, MN. 55455

612 626-9252

Earlier today, I posted Mercedes Schneider’s report about Campbell Brown’s failed lawsuit in Minnesota, where she was trying to get another Vergara-style decision to abolish teacher tenure.

I noted that the judge who tossed the lawsuit said that Brown and her “Partnership for Educational Justice” failed to show a connection between low test scores.

But the state’s own filing against the lawsuit added another important point, which I overlooked. Charter schools are disproportionately represented among the state’s lowest scoring schools, and their teachers do not have tenure. That argument blew a huge hole in the claim of Brown and her PEJ that tenure “causes” low test scores.

Here is the quote that Mercedes drew from the state’s document:

“Plaintiffs Lack Standing. The State Defendants demonstrated in their initial memorandum that Plaintiffs lacked standing because their First Amended Complaint failed to identify a concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent “injury-in-fact,” fairly traceable to the teacher tenure laws. … Plaintiffs reiteration of their generalized grievances set forth in the First Amended Complaint do not alter this conclusion.

“Nor will this case remedy Plaintiffs’ alleged harms. … As Plaintiffs acknowledge, eliminating teacher tenure will not ensure Plaintiffs’ children never again receive a teacher they consider “ineffective.” … Furthermore, Plaintiffs also fail to address the causal deficiencies in their claims, including the fact that (1) it is speculative whether elimination of the teacher tenure laws would result in greater teacher “effectiveness” or higher district-wide test scores; and (2) that Minnesota Charter schools, which do not have tenure, are disproportionally represented among Minnesota’s lowest performing schools.”

Mercedes Schneider writes about the recent events in Minnesota, where Campbell Brown and her reform organization (Partnership for Educational Justice) filed a Vergara-style lawsuit against teacher tenure, claiming that tenure has some relation to low test scores and therefore violates the civil rights of students of color who get low test scores.

This same claim cost millions of dollars to litigate in California after a lower court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Vergara case, but was then overturned in two appeals by higher courts. The billionaires behind corporate reform desperately wanted to have tenure declared a violation of civil rights, and they spent freely to promote that idea. The unions representing teachers wasted dues defending teachers’ right to due process.

But the outcome in Minnesota was different because the judge hearing the case couldn’t find a connection between tenure and test scores!

On October 26, 2016, the Minnesota teacher tenure lawsuit prodded by Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) hit a roadblock when Ramsey County (MN) Judge Margaret Marrinan tossed out the PEJ-supported (instigated?) Forslund vs. Minnesota suit on the grounds that the suit “failed to establish a link between low academic achievement and the due process provided by the tenure laws,” as the Star Tribune reports.

There is something to be said for common sense.

Rumor hath it that Brown will file suit in other states. Here is hoping that she runs into more judges who are wise and know that she is peddling anti-teacher nonsense.

Peter Greene analyzed the lawsuit filed in Minnesota against teacher tenure, a copycat Vergara lawsuit.

 

The same arguments about lazy teachers, incompetent teachers, harm to minority children, etc. are offered in Minnesota, as they are in New York, and they are as groundless there as the court ruled they are in California today.

 

In California, the lawsuit was filed by “Students Matter,” an organization that consists of Silicon Valley zillionaire David Welch.

 

Greene finds a familiar lineup of groups and funders in Minnesota:

 

The anti-tenure lawsuit is funded by the usual suspects– the Partnership for Education Justice (funded by the Walton family and Eli Broad), and Students for Education Reform (an astroturf group used as a front by Education Reform Now, the lobbying brother of Democrats for Education Reform, an astroturf group of hedge funders which is also heavily funded by Broad and Walton)….

 

Look– there are plenty of legitimate conversations to be had about teacher job protections, hiring and firing practices, etc. But this lawsuit, like Vergara in California and Campbell Brown’s lawsuit in NY, is not an attempt to have that conversation. It’s simply an attempt to break the teachers’ union and destroy teacher job protections so that teaching staff costs can be kept low and teachers themselves can be cowed and bullied into silence and compliance.

 

Put another way, this is not remotely pro-student, and is strictly anti-teacher. It’s thick-sliced unvarnished baloney, and the fact that it is an attack on teachers is bad enough, but in attacking teachers, it also leaves unquestioned the attacks on student facilities, schools and resources, while trying to make conditions inside schools that much worse. It’s cynical, it’s destructive, and it’s just plain mean. Let’s hope this doesn’t drag over another few years to another lousy conclusion.

 

The “Partnership for Education Justice” is Campbell Brown’s organization, which rails against unions and tenure. It filed a lawsuit in New York as well. Brown has long contended that tenure and unions protect sexual predators in the schools, although state laws give grounds to remove sexual predators promptly.

Ever wonder who is the supplying the money behind the privatization of public schools?

It is a long list, and it starts with the U.S. Department of Education. Every year since 1994, your taxpayer dollars have been used to open schools that drain resources from your public schools while selecting the students they want. If your state has charters, you can expect that they will lobby the legislature for more charters. They will close their schools, hire buses, and send students, teachers, and parents to the State Capitol, all dressed in matching T-shirts, to demand more charters. Since the children are already enrolled in a charter and can’t attend more than one, they are being used to advance the financial interests of charter chains, which want to expand.

The big foundations support the growth of the charter industry: the Walton Family Foundation has put more than $1 billion into charters and vouchers; the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation also put millions into charters, often partnering with the Far-right Walton Foundation.

There is a long list of other foundations that fund the assault on public education, including the John Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron trader), the Dell Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (Gap and Old Navy), the Michael Bloomberg Foundation, and many more.

Here is a list of the funders of 50CAN, which started in Connecticut as ConnCAN, created by billionaires, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers, led by Jonathan Sackler, uber-rich Big Pharma.

Here is an example of a foundation that is very active in support of privatization. Check out where their money goes.

ALEC uses its clout with far-right legislators to promote charters and vouchers, as well as to negate local control over charters.

To see where the Walton Family Foundation spread over $202 million to advance privatization, look here.

The money trail is so large, that it is hard to know where to begin. Certain recipients do collect large sums with frequency, including KIPP, Teach for America, Education Trust, to name just a few.

As we say at the Network for Public Education, we are many, they are few. They have money, we have votes. Out ideas for children and education are sound, their ideas fail every time, everywhere.

Sarah Lahm tells the story here of how parents and teachers joined together to block the takeover of the St. Paul, Minnesota, school board by Teach for America.

 

Members of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers worked closely with parents to field a parent slate, which was ultimately victorious. There was no out-of-state money in the race. This was a stark contrast with the school board elections in Minneapolis in 2014. That election was a TFA sweep, filed by $300,000 in mostly out-of-state contributions from friends of TFA.

 

Can grassroots collaboration beat big money? The answer is not definitive. But it seems certain that big money will always win unless parents and teachers stand together.

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota testing was briefly halted when Pearson servers became overloaded–were they not expecting so many students?–and a “denial-of-service” hacker broke into the system.

“An overloaded processor and a “malicious denial-of-service attack” led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota’s statewide student testing system, the state’s testing contractor said Wednesday.

“Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

“We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly,” department spokesman Josh Collins said.”

In an age when hackers can break into the computer systems of major corporations, can Pearson expect to remain immune?

Did you know that charter authorizers in many states are paid a fee for every student who enrolls in a charter they oversee? Did you know this fee removes any incentive to demand accountability?

This article shows how fraught with self-dealing, conflicts, and indifference many of these relationships between authorizers and charters are. It is a wild, wild world out there.

Consider this:

“Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds. It hosts retreats and conferences. It’s home to a North American porcupine named Spike as well as several birds of prey, frogs, and snakes used to educate the center’s visitors.

“It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them.. ”

“Many of these gatekeepers are woefully inexperienced, under-resourced, confused about their mission or even compromised by conflicts of interest. And while some charter schools are overseen by state education agencies or school districts, others are regulated by entities for which overseeing charters is a side job, such as private colleges and nonprofits like the Audubon wildlife rehabilitation center…..”

“In 2010, an investigation by the Philadelphia Controller’s Office found lavish executive salaries, conflicts of interest and other problems at more than a dozen charter schools, and it faulted the authorizer – the School District of Philadelphia’s charter school office – for “complete and total failure” to monitor schools. In 2013, more than a dozen Ohio charter schools that had gained approval from various authorizers received state funding and then either collapsed in short order or never opened at all. [That hasn’t stopped Philadelphia from opening more charters.]

“Considerable state funds were lost and many lives impacted because of these failures,” the Ohio Department of Education wrote in a scathing letter last year to Ohio’s charter-school regulators. The agency wrote that some authorizers “lacked not only the appropriate processes, but more importantly, the commitment of mission, expertise and resources needed to be effective….

“It’s not just Trine. In the esoteric world of charter authorizing, there’s long been confusion and tension over the basic role of authorizers. Are they charter-school watchdogs, or are they there to provide support?

“In Ohio, many charter authorizers fall on the “support” end of the spectrum. Some go so far that they sell “support services” – back-office services, for instance, or even professional development – to the very schools they regulate. It’s a way for these groups to make additional revenue on top of the fees they’re allowed to charge the schools.”

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reviewed the performance of the state’s charter schools and concluded that most were not meeting their academic targets and not closing achievement gaps.

 

Minnesota was the home of the charter movement, which began with high expectations as a progressive experiment but has turned into a favorite mechanism in many states to promote privatization of public education and to generate profits for charter corporations like Imagine, Charter Schools USA, and K12. Today, charter advocates claim that their privately managed charters will “save low-income students from failing public schools,” but the Minnesota experience suggests that charters face the same challenges as public schools, which is magnified by high teacher turnover in charter schools.

 

 

The Star-Tribune article by reporter Kim McGuire begins:

 

 

Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth, according to a Star Tribune analysis of school performance data.
The analysis of 128 of the state’s 157 charter schools show that the gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72 percent were proficient.

 
Between 2011 and 2014, 20 charter schools failed every year to meet the state’s expectations for academic growth each year, signaling that some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable students had stagnated academically.
A top official with the Minnesota Department of Education says she is troubled by the data, which runs counter to “the public narrative” that charter schools are generally superior to public schools.

 
“We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.
“Our students, they’re coming from different environments, both home and school, where they’ve never had the chance to be successful,” said April Harrison, executive director of LoveWorks Academy, a Minneapolis charter school that has the state’s lowest rating. “No one has ever taken the time to say, ‘What’s going on with you? How can I help you?’ That’s what we do.”

 
Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter school movement and a handful of schools have received national acclaim for their accomplishments, particularly when it comes to making strong academic gains with low-income students of color. But the new information is fueling critics who say the charter school experiment has failed to deliver on teaching innovation.
“Schools promised they were going to help turn around things for these very challenging student populations,” said Kyle Serrette, director of education for the New York City-based Center for Popular Democracy. “Now, here we are 20 years later and they’re realizing that they have the same troubles of public schools systems.”
More than half of schools analyzed from 2011 to 2014 were also failing to meet the department’s expectations for academic growth, the gains made from year to year in reading and math.