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Tuesday Talk: What education policies will move Minnesota forward?

May 03, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Other than conservatives proposing policies to undermine confidence in public education and punish teachers, there’s been little leadership on education policy this legislative session. 

Why are leaders taking us in the wrong direction on education policy?  What education policies will move Minnesota forward?  

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  • norm hanson says:

    May 3, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Policies that encourage and facilitate parental involvement in any attempts made to reduce or eliminate the so called academic “achievement gap.”  Can’t keep blaming the teachers for that continuing problem with certain groups nor can we keep throwing resources at the problem. The solution has to come from the affected communities starting with an interest in closing it without any excuses or whining.

  • John Crampton says:

    May 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Make pre school education available and affordable for all—- it’s the best investment that we can make, with an ROI that is something like 15:1. 

    Fund year round school.  The idea of 10 week summer vacations is antiquated, going back to the days when the kids were needed for summer farm chores.

    Implement professional tracks for teachers, including a big emphasis on career development, lesson planning, peer review and evaluation.  Exemplary teachers should continue teaching a limited class load while spending most of their time mentoring and evaluating younger teachers. 

    Get rid of No Child Left Behind.  It’s purposely designed to create school failure—- its AYP requirements are a logical impossibility if you think about it.  By the way, all the testing is a joke because there are no consequences for bad performance for the individual students taking the test.  Why don’t we measure school performance by ACT scores or scores on tests designed to separate the children who will go to college from those who will go to trade school?  I’m sure you would see the performance of our students scores improve dramatically.  All No Child Left Behind has done is line the pockets of crooks like Jeb Bush and his privitization-scheming corporate cronies.  Get corporate America out of our classrooms because their influence there is as toxic as their relationship to our environment and politics.

    One of the keys to doing this of course is to cut our defense budget (which is more than the combined defense budgets of all the countries of the word) by 50-60%.  Bring the soldiers home and train them to be the next generation of teachers and educational leaders.


  • Aaron Grimm says:

    May 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Having this conversation really needs to start with: What is the purpose of schooling? Are learning and schooling different pursuits?

    Moving forward to me means to take under serious consideration groups like Education Evolving’s ( ideas:
    * Make teaching a better job (give more ownership to teachers, so they have control over their work).
    * Look at using a split screen approach (let schools that want to use current “one size fits all” standards, but invent new, truly innovative standards that schools could use to better meet the needs of kids. Study the options on a longitudinal basis
    * Demand evidence from the big three testing companies (Pearson, McGraw Hill, Houghtan Mifflin) that their methodology has proof. We are risking our entire county’s well being on a well planned corporate profit scheme . Get past the rhetoric of: high standards, rigor, psychometrics, etc. and demand proof that their antics are more than just a creative way to substantially increase their bottom line (it is by no coincidence that these companies profits has grown every year since the inception of No Child Left Behind).
    * allow educators to create new, autonomous schools that they are passionate about working at (either in district or public charter settings)

    From a school structure standpoint, consider changing the current compliance-oriented, 19th century bureaucratic model into schools that:
    * Look at student asset models of learning (vs. today’s current deficit model)
    * Allow students to be at the center of learning (versus learning dictated by teachers were students are passive respondents)
    * value and know how to intrinsically motivate students & teachers (vs. a model dependent on extrinsic motivators like: letter grades, honor rolls, performance pay, etc.)
    * understand the social-emotional needs of kids first, since only psychologically healthy kids can achieve (vs. focusing schools at a purely cognitive level)

    The above changes would better meet the developmental needs of adolescents, which is what schools should be about. If we don’t recognize this now, we will continue down the road of useless rhetoric, public schools will continue to face privatization and the testing/standardization/common core creators will continue to send their kids to private schools.

    We can no longer say “we didn’t see this coming.”


  • Steve says:

    May 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    The leadership is focused on the problems.  I had three kids go through the public school system. (1)  Our experience was very few bad teachers (total of three). Considering three kids and thirteen years of teachers that was a very small percentage. Two of those teachers were gone shortly. The idea that teachers are the problem is false.  (2) If we want the best and brightest for teachers, why are cutting the standards for certification? Making an easier path to certification as the legislature just did does not make sense. (3) Vilifying teachers as the problem (why student aren’t learning) undermines and makes the problem worse. Students are now viewing teachers as to why they aren’t learning.

    The parental and home environment is as important as the teachers.  An education is very important on the kind of life style our kids will have. It starts at home and continues with the partnership of the schools. Neither can be successful without the other.

  • Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D. says:

    May 3, 2011 at 10:53 am

    The legislature is about money—only money. Money is the foundation of schooling.
    Money is the crisis. 
    Money available without raising taxes!
    Money is the issue with voters.
    Money for schools is a hot issue—don’t touch it.
    Money is needed for schools but don’t address the issue seriously.
    Money for the rich is more important than the crisis.
    Money for the rich is more important than schools.
    Money issues make people irrational.
    Money for me is the important thing.
    Money crisis was not caused by schools.
    Money for commercial and private schools is more important than public schools.
    Money for teachers to give to political campaigns must be restricted.
    Money to keep teachers in the profession must be increased.
    Money for taxes must be decreased.
    Money for taxes must be increased to solve the current crisis.
    My money is for me.
    “Money is like manure—you have to spread it around in order to make things grow.”
    Money makes us funny!

  • Lyn says:

    May 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I Concur:
    “Educating students starts at home and continues with an active partnership with the school of your choice. Neither can be successful without the other.”

  • Alec says:

    May 3, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    So, if education starts at home, and cannot be successful without, do we just give up on kids who don’t have a stable home life or parents involved in their education?

    It sounds great to talk about parent involvement, and we have to nurture that, value that, and honor that, but we don’t live in a perfect world. We still have to find ways to help kids who come to us without all the benefits of a middle class upbringing.

  • Alec says:

    May 3, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    One straightforward solution would be to fully fund all day kindergarten. We are one of the few states that only funds half day. When you have at risk kids, who come to school without even the most basic skills, they are set to be behind their entire career. Catching them up to start is a heck of a lot more cost effective, in both monetary and emotional human cost, than wasting money trying to catch the kid up 5 years down the road.

    All day kindergarten.

  • Sophia says:

    May 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Teachers need to know that they are Appreciated.

    These Republicans think that they can cut Teachers and salaries
    yet this should not be possible. and should not happen.

    I think children should go to school during the summer months
    so they will get ahead,  Two months at least…

    Children need good teachers because they choose this field to assist and help children Learn .
    If a child comes from a homeless environment or a different culture, society the Teacher excepts the children no matter what.

    I have no policies to speak of just that Teachers should be hired and treated respectfully…

    Thank you

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    May 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    The sustained attack on teachers is part of an anti-union/anti-worker movement that goes back at least to the 1980s and Reagan’s firing of every air traffic controller in the U.S.

    I recall reading a quote from former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (I think) about anti-union “educational” seminars for the justices held at places like Colorado ski resorts.  And the NY Times reported late last year that justices Scalia and Thomas attend meetings of right-wing donors organized by the Koch brothers. Should judges at any level be donating to candidates whose views they share??

    Google the name Richard Berman for info on the anti-union movement’s biggest activist/lobbyist. 

    At the website of the pro-worker The Anti-Union Network is a paragraph noting that the national Chamber of Commerce’s receipts from corporate donors increased from $600,000 per year to $90 million in 10 years.

    Also at this site is a link to a long list of “Berman’s Front Groups.”

    The attack on teachers is a big part of the movement to, if not destroy the public schools, to at least weaken them until most schools are private charters managed by “non-profit foundations” pushing who-knows-what ideology. 

    Disgusting, is it not?


  • Sandi Karnowski says:

    May 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Whew, we had some eloquent writers capture our problems in education.  I agree with everyone of them.  I too feel we should front-load early childhood and kindergarten.  As a speech-language pathologist I see kids who come to school behind other children.  Kids should have around 5,000 words in their lexicon.  Many come with less than half that.  Children have to know many things before they start kindergarten, including lots of words. If you don’t know the word you can’t read it.
    Teachers should not be blamed for this.  Parents are the ultimate teachers. Education has become a Republican/conservative dumping ground of bad tidings. We need to stand up for ourselves, and have sane minded people support us with words and mostly with cold hard cash for education, instead of for providing loopholes for their business cronies.