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MN2020: Education http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education Strong schools create Minnesota's path to prosperity. Fri, 10 Jul 2020 23:39:25 -0500 Is the New “Accountability” Actually Professional? http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/is-the-new-accountability-actually-professional http://mn2020.org/8809 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> When looking at teacher accountability, we&rsquo;ve experienced many turbulent changes in the past few years. Unfortunately, they aren&rsquo;t likely to have nearly the impact some are hoping for. One problem? They don&rsquo;t do enough to professionalize teaching.</p> <p> The criticisms of traditional teacher evaluation and accountability systems are well-worn by now. They rely too much on years of service as a proxy for quality. The due process guarantees are too strong. At the heart of the criticism is that teachers&rsquo; contracts look too much like blue collar labor contracts and are unprofessional.</p> <p> In response to these criticisms, a wave of reform came in promising to move teacher evaluation and accountability beyond their industrial roots. We have already seen countrywide adoption of teacher evaluation systems that are based in part on student testing data, and there are many who want to see these evaluations replace seniority as the basis for budget-forced layoffs. This, we have been told, is a more professional way of evaluating teachers. The argument goes on to suggest that, perhaps now that people know they will be judged on their performance, we will attract higher quality teacher candidates who were repelled by the previous industrial model.</p> <p> A growing chorus of voices dispute this assumption. One of the more current entries is the National Center on Education and the Economy&rsquo;s report, <a href="http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FixingOurNationalAccountabilitySystemWebV4.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;Fixing Our National Accountability System.&rdquo;</a> Citing well-established research on management practices, the report argues that the new system isn&rsquo;t any more professional than the old system. Instead, the new model has merely adopted an additional strain of old industrial practices, relying on simplistic quantitative measurements to incentivize and punish job performance.</p> <p> The problem with this, as the report points out, is that the new carrot-and-stick approach to teacher accountability doesn&rsquo;t produce the same results with teaching and other professions relying on &ldquo;knowledge work&rdquo; that it does with historical industrial work. (It should also be noted that less and less of today&rsquo;s industrial work is a good fit for the historical approach, too.) Instead, this is an attempt to claw back at protections that school districts granted in exchange for keeping pay low and hours long.</p> <p> A truly professional accountability system, this report suggests, would rely much more heavily on accountability to one&rsquo;s peers and oneself in the honest pursuit of high quality work. Instead, the report suggests a system that uses career ladders&mdash;informed by a much more nuanced definition of performance than test-based calculations&mdash;that increases teachers&rsquo; compensation, recognition, and authority while also increasing responsibility. It would support a system of mentorship, with higher performing teachers supporting those still developing, and advancement would depend in part on spending time working at schools whose students grapple with more outside obstacles.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s a lot more to the proposed system (including a scaled back approach to testing that shifts the high stakes to students rather than teachers or schools), and it is not without its share of issues, both political and policy-related. However, it does represent a genuinely different direction in accountability that looks more like that of other professions than like an assembly line. That distinction may be its most important contribution, and it&rsquo;s a notion that, while not new, certainly has not received enough attention.</p> <p> One can imagine other routes to alternative accountability systems. <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/accountable-to-whom" target="_blank">Community-based accountability,</a> for example, is a more democratic process that puts families and teachers together to define the objectives for students, agree on appropriate measurements, and identify the response when objectives aren&rsquo;t reached. Whatever the approach, it&rsquo;s important to sustain a broad definition of what students should learn and to involve teachers in their own professional development process.</p> <p> Achieving any alternative to the current system will require more work on the part of teachers and their unions. We have already seen some examples of this. Teachers have participated in the creation of <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/getting-better-teachers" target="_blank">career ladders,</a> and have developed effective peer assistance and review programs that support teachers that need it and move out those who belong elsewhere. Most of these efforts have happened at the local level, and we can apply the lessons learned by that local work to future statewide changes. The accountability system we have isn&rsquo;t professional and isn&rsquo;t likely to be as effective as hoped; we deserve something better.</p> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:30:31 +0000 Where Children, Data, and Equity Meet http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/where-children-data-and-equity-meet http://mn2020.org/8785 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> It&rsquo;s not hard to agree that young children shouldn&rsquo;t face suspension or expulsion except in the most extreme circumstances. Beth Hawkins of <em>MinnPost</em> has provided <a href="http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2014/09/mps-suspension-ban-youngest-students-part-effort-reduce-glaring-racial-dispar" target="_blank">in-depth coverage</a> of the recent efforts in Minneapolis to address that problem by modifying their rules to make it difficult-to-impossible to send kindergarteners and first graders out of school for misbehavior. It&rsquo;s the latest in a cluster of recent efforts in different Minnesota districts to address a real problem of equity in our schools.</p> <p> Specifically, the changes in Minneapolis are a reaction to the stark and prolonged racial disparities in school discipline. African-American and American Indian students have faced suspension rates that are several times higher than white and Asian students, with Latino students suspended at a rate somewhat higher than white and Asian students. These gaps are one local reflection of a countrywide trend with <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-breaking-school-to-prison-pipelines" target="_blank">real ramifications</a> for students&rsquo; experiences of school.</p> <p> Looking underneath the data to analyze the underlying causes is more complicated. Oftentimes, one factor is school or district discipline policies, and in particular their definitions of grounds for suspension or expulsion. Vague or ambiguous language like &ldquo;willful defiance&rdquo; opens the door for unconscious or implicit biases to affect which students receive different levels of consequence. Schools that have eliminated such language as part of a broader effort to change discipline practice have seen dramatic reductions in suspensions and expulsions.</p> <p> Another factor is how well school staff can identify and adapt to family and home conditions that can affect student behavior. For example, my report <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/local-lessons-five-case-studies-in-community-driven-education-reform" target="_blank">&ldquo;Local Lessons: Five Case Studies in Community-Driven Education Reform&rdquo;</a> discussed the partnership between Rochester teachers and the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Project to help teachers recognize and respond to the effects on children of having a family member deployed in the military. Even students in the youngest grades can find themselves facing expulsion when their family needs are going unaddressed. Students across Minnesota face a wide range of challenges, and ensuring that school staff in many roles are equipped to help them address those obstacles can help moderate the underlying causes of misbehavior.</p> <p> Of course, the more services schools can offer in addressing those needs, the better positioned they are to support students and reduce misbehavior. Many districts found themselves laying off guidance counselors and social workers in response to Pawlenty-era budgets, for example, and helping them <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/valuing-the-whole-child-education-beyond-test-scores" target="_blank">rebuild those positions</a> should be a priority.</p> <p> Returning to the role of discipline policies themselves in contributing to or reducing racial disparities, rewriting those policies should be accompanied by incorporating teachers, support staff, and other school personnel in the process of creating an explicitly anti-racist school climate. While clearing up ambiguous language makes it more difficult for implicit biases to produce disparities in punishments, reframing the whole educational environment to acknowledge and attempt to counteract racism can help people actively resist those biases.</p> <p> Moving towards a restorative justice framework is a related way of helping adults and students alike rethink the purposes and assumptions of school discipline. Exchanging <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/school-discipline-shouldnt-be-miniature-law-enforcement" target="_blank">the law enforcement model</a> for one that guides students through an understanding of harm and reconciliation transforms the entire structure of misbehavior and discipline from one based on confrontation to one based on collaboration and learning.</p> <p> Running through all of these ideas and recommendations is the lesson learned from years of pounding heads against walls in the pursuit of higher test scores. That lesson: Work on fixing the problem, not <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/look-past-the-thermometer" target="_blank">the data.</a> Unless the causal factors are addressed, any surface-level shifts in the data are likely to be temporary, deceptive, or both. This is why blanket bans on suspensions unaccompanied by any other changes don&rsquo;t tend to work out well.</p> <p> Pursuing educational equity requires us to constantly re-anchor ourselves in the search for causes and effects. It is not enough to simply make <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/people-numbers" target="_blank">bad numbers</a> go away. The numbers themselves aren&rsquo;t the problem, and when we chase them as if they are, we risk making major mistakes (like narrowing curriculum and cutting important opportunities for students). Instead, the numbers are one reflection of many different factors intersecting in a variety of ways at different levels of the system. Schools can&rsquo;t &ldquo;fix&rdquo; all of those factors, but if they are to become more equitable, they must be able to name them and change practice appropriately.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:29 +0000 College Debts Hold Back Economic Recovery; Need Assistance http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/college-debts-hold-back-economic-recovery-need-assistance http://mn2020.org/8764 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Rising college debts are holding back recovery in the housing markets while housing costs converge with college debts to also hold back recovery for the broader U.S. and Minnesota economies.</p> <p> This drag on economic performance isn&rsquo;t perfectly documented and analyzed yet. It is coming in bits and pieces. Yet an increasing body of financial house studies and analytical journalism finds linkages too strong to be ignored.</p> <p> Two sets of data should grab everyone&rsquo;s attention, said Darryl Dahlheimer, program director for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota&rsquo;s LSS Financial Counseling Service, who actually has suggestions for ways to help students and the economy cope.</p> <p> The first data set is that college debts for recent graduates and current students have reached <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/11/how-student-debt-crushes-your-chances-of-buying-a-home/" target="_blank">$1.2 trillion</a>. The second, he said, was Federal Reserve Bank of New York&rsquo;s findings earlier this year that<a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/06/24-student-loan-crisis-akers-chingos" target="_blank"> 31 percent of college loans</a> are now delinquent.</p> <p> &ldquo;This has to have an enormous impact on the overall economy,&rdquo; Dahlheimer said, and is a crisis calling out for public policy assistance.</p> <p> College students need debt management counseling when they take on college loans, similar to the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides mortgage and foreclosure-bankruptcy counseling, he said. &ldquo;Right now, all across the country, the only counseling college students get is how to get loans; nothing on how they will repay them.&rdquo;</p> <p> Such counseling could be provided for in the overhead cost of the student loans, and the 600 members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) are in place to provide low-cost financial services, he added. LSS Financial Counseling Services, for instance, is a fully accredited nonprofit counseling service in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is part of a pilot program, along with Urban Edge group in Boston, providing counseling through a unique Center for Excellence in Financial Counseling program at the University of Missouri.</p> <p> Ideally, Minnesota and national leaders should be looking at debt relief, or debt forgiveness programs similar to efforts underway to get doctors and medical personnel into rural and underserved communities, he added. That could be a third public policy response.&nbsp;</p> <p> Student debt problems are nationwide. Minnesota is no exception.</p> <p> The<a href="http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2012.pdf" target="_blank"> Project on Student Debt</a> organzation found in its student of 2012 college graduates that Minnesota ranked fourth, after Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, for graduates holding the highest amount of average college debt at $31,497. Minnesota was also ranked fourth highest among states with 70 percent of its class of 2012 graduating with debt.</p> <p> Overall, 71 percent of 2012 graduates from four-year colleges nationwide held student loans, according to the Institute for College Access &amp; Success research group, averaging $29,400&mdash;a 25 percent increase from the previous survey in 2008.</p> <p> How this spills over on the economy is obvious in the trenches where people work on community and economic development and on housing issues, said Jim Erchul, executive director of the Dayton&rsquo;s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services on St. Paul&rsquo;s East Side.</p> <p> It is keeping recent college grads out of the home buying markets, he said. It has made them working poor, despite their educations; and they compete with low-income families for rental properties. And it delays any hopes for recent college grades to use their educations as a springboard to become entrepreneurs and launch new businesses.</p> <p> When Erchul started college, public universities in Minnesota were on a quarterly school calendar and tuition cost about $100 for the quarter. &ldquo;It was $1,000 a quarter when I went to graduate school, a thousand percent increase,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p> Much later, when another member of his household started graduate school, the cost had gone up to $10,000.</p> <p> Meanwhile, home values in most of Minnesota peaked in 2005-2006, with the subsequent collapse in the housing market nationwide triggering what has become known as the Great Recession. By 2013, the collapse meant $1 billion in home equity was wiped out in just the East Side of St. Paul where Erchul works.</p> <p> There has been an uptick in home values in the past 18 months, he said. But this reversion to mean in home pricing has only recovered about half the lost home equity, still leaving a high percentage of home mortgages underwater and pinching homeowners&rsquo; abilities to do repairs and pay off other household debt. Whether this was ever good financial planning or not, home equity has been the leverage for would be entrepreneurs to start businesses that, in turn, create jobs and spur economic activity within communities. For these reasons, the broader economy has shared reasons why it is important for college graduates to get on with their lives, buy homes and ultimately start new businesses.</p> <p> Sarah Strain, research and communications intern at Minnesota Housing Partnership, finds the financial world is taking notice. (<a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/student-debt-evidence-of-impacts-piling-up">See accompanying blog.</a>) For instance, a Goldman Sacks study found that six to seven percent of grads have $50,000 in college debts, lowering their chances of home ownership; and that millennials paying 10 percent of monthly income on students loans have a 22 percent lower home ownership rate that their classmates.</p> <p> Strain&rsquo;s research finds the connections. Erchul sees it play out. And Dahlheimer knows it won&rsquo;t get better until student loans also buy college debt management counseling.</p> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:00:22 +0000 Better Learning Through Psychology http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/better-learning-through-psychology http://mn2020.org/8760 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> With so much of the attention in education reform focused on quantitative outcomes or defining &ldquo;good&rdquo; teaching, we can sometimes miss or minimize some less academic, but <a href="http://www.perts.net/files/articles/PERTS_Summary_January_2014.pdf" target="_blank">quite powerful,</a> opportunities to help students through changes that address students&rsquo; experience and psychology.</p> <p> The research on <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/~gwalton/home/Welcome_files/Yeager%20Walton%20Cohen%202013.pdf" target="_blank">psychological routes</a> to increasing student performance hasn&rsquo;t received much attention in policy spheres (or if it has, that attention hasn't been translated into meaningful changes in policy or in rhetoric). In the academic and educational worlds, however, it has continued to grow. Both when I was at Teach For America&rsquo;s summer institute and when I was teaching, it wasn&rsquo;t uncommon to hear discussions of the work of Carol Dweck looking at growth mindsets contrasted with fixed mindsets about learning. As <em>The Atlantic</em> has recently demonstrated with <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/09/how-to-get-insecure-students-to-work-harder/379500/?single_page=true" target="_blank">a research roundup,</a> her research has influenced several other academics to dig deeper into what schools can do, both at the K-12 level and in higher education, to get more students to engage with school.</p> <p> One part of this is recognizing the difference between fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset about school and learning starts with assumptions about innate ability. When we boil things down to who&rsquo;s &ldquo;smart&rdquo; or <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/the-invasion-of-the-math-people" target="_blank">&ldquo;good at math,&rdquo;</a> we&rsquo;re starting with a fixed mindset. This still allows room for learning, but it sets different assumptions for how fast or easily students will learn.</p> <p> As it turns out, this isn&rsquo;t great for students&rsquo; persistence when they encounter difficulty, regardless of whether they&rsquo;re viewed as &ldquo;smart&rdquo; or &ldquo;dumb.&rdquo; Students who self-label (or who feel labeled by others) as &ldquo;dumb&rdquo; aren&rsquo;t as likely to think they belong in school or that it&rsquo;s worth it to try hard. On the other end of the spectrum, students who identify as &ldquo;smart&rdquo; may not be willing to try as hard in areas where they don&rsquo;t quickly show progress, and may outright avoid experiences they perceive as threatening that identity.</p> <p> A growth mindset, by contrast, analogizes the brain to a muscle which grows stronger as it is worked more. This model makes it more likely that students will embrace difficulty as a sign that they are growing, and students with growth mindsets are thus more likely to keep at it even when school is hard. Shifting students (and teachers, families, and administrators) over to growth mindsets has been one of the major goals of those familiar with the research on this sort of psychological approach to education.</p> <p> Connected to this use of growth mindsets is the charged term, &ldquo;high expectations.&rdquo; On the one hand, research does demonstrate that <a href="http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/08/african-american-grades.aspx" target="_blank">explicit communication</a> of high expectations to students increases motivation and trust. <a href="http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-a0033906.pdf" target="_blank">One study,</a> for instance, noted that students were more likely to revise an essay and improve their writing when they received feedback that emphasized the teacher&rsquo;s high standards and belief that the student could reach them. That feedback also encouraged students to trust their teachers more, especially when they previously had not trusted teachers.</p> <p> On the other hand, &ldquo;high expectations&rdquo; is too often used in counterproductive attacks that simply blame teachers rather than advancing a real shift in mindsets. Most teachers do have high expectations for their students. The research on expectations should be seen as exploring how best to communicate and reinforce those expectations to build student trust, not as an ideological indictment of the existing teacher corps.</p> <p> Extrapolating from this research, we can see how important it is for schools to reiterate&mdash;with sincerity&mdash;a combination of high expectations and growth mindsets. This can and should happen both in the classroom and outside of it. Also, as some of the more prominent researchers in this area <a href="http://www.wsac.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2014.ptw.(15).pdf" target="_blank">have discussed,</a> &ldquo;These are not quick fixes that can be administered broadly without consideration for local contexts or the meaning students make of them. They require an R&amp;D model that incorporates authentic collaborations between researchers and contextual experts and rigorous experimental and observational evaluation at each step.&rdquo;</p> <p> Running through much of this research, and explicitly addressed in some cases, is the importance of helping students feel that <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/~gwalton/home/Publications_files/WaltonCohen2011SharingMotivation.pdf" target="_blank">they really do belong</a> in school. Especially in cases where students and families have historical reasons not to trust schools, or in fields where damaging stereotypes continue to dominate (as with girls and women in math and science), schools should serve as a counterforce to historical and institutional biases.</p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:59:44 +0000 VIDEO: College Perspectives http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-college-perspectives http://mn2020.org/8740 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota 2020 has an <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/about-us/jobs-internships/internship-application/" target="_blank">internship program</a> that allows college students to put their academic training to work and to hone their critical thinking, research and writing skills.&nbsp; We asked our summer undergraduate and graduate research fellows to provide their perspective on what it means to be a progressive and what they took away from their experience.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:00:07 +0000 The Many Sides of Back to School http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-many-sides-of-back-to-school http://mn2020.org/8743 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> Today, students across Minnesota are going back to school. Some have already been back for a week or more, but starting today, pretty much every child will be in one school or another. It&rsquo;s a yearly ritual for many people, with some new variation each year.</p> <p> One such change this year is the expansion of all-day kindergarten throughout the entire public school system. This is the realization of legislation passed two legislative sessions ago, and it&rsquo;s a major substantive change for many districts and families. Using new money from the state, schools have hired more teachers to add this service. For many families, this translates not only into more formal education for their children, but also less time taken off work or less money spent on child care. Of course, any academic benefits that come from this change won&rsquo;t show up for a while longer, a stark reminder of the gap in time between passing legislation and seeing results.</p> <p> As for rituals that stay the same, one is the buying of additional school supplies by teachers above and beyond what&rsquo;s budgeted for them. Every year at Brooklyn Center, for example, I would buy dozens of extra notebooks to ensure that all of my students had what they needed for my class. Other teachers buy markers, pencils, folder, and many, many other supplies that students need for their classrooms.</p> <p> When students are in those classrooms, they&rsquo;ll be paying close attention to their new teachers. First impressions matter a lot in education, and establishing the right classroom presence can make a significant difference in how the school year develops. In part, this means establishing a combination of high expectations and obvious empathy that&rsquo;s true to oneself. More pragmatically, it means describing and reinforcing the many different processes that can absorb more time and attention than the casual observer might think. Sharpening pencils, retrieving folders, moving to and from group work, falling quiet and paying attention when the teacher calls for it, and getting passes to the bathroom or the nurse are just some of the routines that must be established early and returned to as necessary if classrooms are to run productively and efficiently. Some teachers get by and thrive without these steps, but most spend appreciable time and effort laying these foundations.</p> <p> For some students, these steps have already been taken. Some schools started last week, and others started weeks before that. Lengthening the school year is one way schools try to combat summer learning loss, albeit one that should be carried out thoughtfully (and with air conditioning). Whether that time was spent on academics or practicing the many procedures and habits expected of students, it&rsquo;s time that gives many students a leg up as the school year starts. (Without care, though, it can turn into a wasted exercise.)</p> <p> Regardless of whether a student&rsquo;s first class started this morning or three weeks ago, though, last week that student&rsquo;s teachers got a look at the grade&rsquo;s MCA scores from last year. How much teachers can do with that information now is a matter of some debate, and it demonstrates the importance of knowing what information we want to get from each assessment we give. The MCAs are best viewed as a system-level snapshot, with other assessments&mdash;including but not limited to standardized tests&mdash;being far more useful for identifying and responding to students&rsquo; learning needs.</p> <p> Whether it&rsquo;s new kindergarteners meeting new kindergarten teachers face-to-face, hunting for meaning in MCA scores, or one of the time-honored rituals of starting the school year, each aspect of students&rsquo; and teachers&rsquo; experiences today will be affected by a mixture of state and federal policy, local context, and individual decisions. It&rsquo;s a big system, and much more complicated than the simple image of 20-30 students taking their seats while the teacher stands in front of the blackboard. Changing any piece of this from the top-down will have ripple effects and unintended consequences. As a result, moving the system in a more equitable and higher-performing direction will take time and patience. It&rsquo;s tough to reconcile that with the real sense of urgency many of us feel about improving educational outcomes, but it&rsquo;s a reality we need to understand.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s not a reason to stop trying. It is a reason to take a broad view of schooling, considering the whole child and thinking bigger than test scores.</p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00:20 +0000 Discussion: Back to School Hopes http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/discussion-back-to-school-hopes http://mn2020.org/8742 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> What are your hopes and dreams for school this year?</p> <p> Starting today, all Minnesota students will be back in school across the state. As you look forward to this year and further into the future, what do you envision and wish for your children, your students, and/or the schools in your community?</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 Education Fellow Michael Diedrich (fresh off the statewide press tour for &ldquo;Valuing the Whole Child: Education Beyond Test Scores&rdquo;) will be available from 8-9:30 am to facilitate this discussion, and will continue to respond throughout the day. We welcome your questions and comments.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use &quot;refresh&quot; to see new comments.</strong></p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:59:05 +0000 Ed Tech Conversations Are a Chance for Democracy http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/ed-tech-conversations-are-a-chance-for-democracy http://mn2020.org/8741 <p> By Michael J. Diedrich, Policy Associate </p> <p> With the news that the Los Angeles superintendent has canceled the district&rsquo;s contract with Apple and Pearson&mdash;due in part to concerns about how the contract was awarded&mdash;it&rsquo;s a good time to reexamine district-level decision making about technology in education. In particular, here are three questions that families, teachers, and community members generally might want to consider asking of district leaders who are considering major technology purchases.</p> <p> <strong>Who&rsquo;s selling this?</strong></p> <p> Education technology is a large and growing industry, to the tune of roughly $10 billion. Sometimes that money goes to smaller providers or local opportunities. More often, however, it&rsquo;s large companies who already serve most of the market expanding their reach. That&rsquo;s certainly the case with Apple, which commands 94 percent of the educational tablet market. The L.A. difficulties also include the testing and publishing giant Pearson, which is one of a tiny number of companies who supply most of the tests, curriculum, and textbooks in the country.</p> <p> There have been some moves to open up the educational marketplace to smaller competition. That was one of the arguments Bill Gates offered in favor of the Common Core, for example, since a uniform set of standards makes it much easier for, say, an Iowa-based education technology company to sell the same product to schools from Maine to California. It&rsquo;s also part of the reason why GlassLab, an educational game company, has made many of its resources available to other companies to help the market improve.</p> <p> However, most of the move to increase technology spending has benefited the big players who are always in a better position to take advantage of big changes in the marketplace. Districts need to remember that every company will make a sales pitch emphasizing the shiniest parts of their product, so someone else needs to ask if these are the right people to partner with. Certainly there were reservations in Saint Paul about the district&rsquo;s choice of Dell as a major technology vendor, and the switch to Apple won&rsquo;t do much to allay those.</p> <p> <strong>How will you prepare and support students, families, and faculty so that this will actually change learning?</strong></p> <p> As always, new technology only matters if it changes how teaching or learning happen. There are many great success stories of teachers&mdash;like White Bear Lake&rsquo;s Ananth Pa &mdash;using technology as part of a larger redesign of their classes. It is important for students to be conversant with technology, and districts must make sure that all of the people who will be close to that technology will in fact use it to accomplish new things.</p> <p> Unfortunately, some districts can fall prey to a self-inflicted sense of pressure to make technology purchases quickly to demonstrate that they are with the times. As we see more and more districts reconsider their purchases, though, it&rsquo;s become clear that it&rsquo;s important for districts to take the time to work with all the people who will be working with the new tools every day.</p> <p> <strong>How will you involve those same important community members in making the final decision?</strong></p> <p> When it comes to major purchases of technology coordinated with big changes to pedagogy, it&rsquo;s not enough for districts to simply call a community meeting and tell their constituents and employees what the new arrangement will be. Instead, districts must involve all of those important people in the final decision making process as well as the planning process. This may be a slower process politically (democracy can be messy like that), but the end result is likely to be a broader sense of investment in the ultimate decision and a greater chance of seeing the intended changes play out as planned.</p> <p> The decision making process also serves as a chance to share more information with those community members and educators. More information cuts down on miscommunication and misunderstanding during the roll-out of the new technology. It also creates another opportunity for district leaders and educators to engage with families about what schools&rsquo; priorities should be when working with the particular students and families in the community.</p> <p> <strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p> If there&rsquo;s one thing we can learn from the past few decades or more of education reform, it&rsquo;s that schools need to be responding to the needs, strengths, and interests of the communities they serve and not just responding to top-down incentive systems and market forces. Empowering families to leave and seek out other schools may make for a better market, but it doesn&rsquo;t make for a better democracy. Public schools should be responsive to the public, and major decisions about technology are one route to increasing democratic engagement with our schools.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:00:49 +0000 Valuing the Whole Child: Education Beyond Test Scores http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/valuing-the-whole-child-education-beyond-test-scores http://mn2020.org/8723 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow with Meredith Pozzi & Luke Plutowski </p> <p> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/Valuing_WholeChild_web.pdf" target="_blank"><strong>Download full report</strong></a> (pdf)<br /> <strong><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/237788599/Valuing-the-Whole-Child-Education-Beyond-Test-Scores?secret_password=UfOjC0NuWXCjlWsyqoYT" target="_blank">View online at Scribd</a></strong></p> <p> The Pawlenty era was a tough time for Minnesota school districts, who saw state education aid stagnate or shrink in the face of inflation. Many communities proved how much they value their school systems by agreeing to take on higher property tax burdens so that their schools could make up the difference and continue to serve an increasingly diverse population with more students of color, more students from families struggling to get by, more students receiving special education services, and more students with limited English proficiency. The Great Recession did significant damage to many communities, but recent years have seen a rise in state aid with a change in political control at the state capitol.</p> <p> How education money gets spent reflects a combination of statewide values, local values, and the priorities emphasized by state policy. This report examines five key areas of education spending&mdash;enriching coursework, student support services, targeted spending for particular student groups, extracurricular activities, and early childhood education&mdash;to see how they weathered stingier state budgets and the Great Recession.</p> <p> Inside the report, you will find four case studies along with statewide data analysing education spending trends: St. Paul, Anoka-Hennepin, Duluth and Bemidji.</p> <p> <strong>Key Findings</strong></p> Enriching courses like arts, business, and computer science lost 10 percent of their funding between 2003-04 and 2012-13. This is a statement of shifting instructional priorities, since expenditures on math education increased by 10 percent. Support services also weathered cuts, with some districts seeing particularly large drops in service. Duluth, for example, cut over 60 percent of its student support spending. Categorical investments by the state in special education and support for English Language Learners allowed both categories to keep up with growing enrollment. While extracurricular expenditures in aggregate remained flat, districts made very different decisions. For example, Anoka-Hennepin increased extracurricular spending while Saint Paul cut it. Early childhood education received an increase in investment, possibly reflecting its growing prominence in policy debates. <p> <strong>Recommendations</strong></p> <p> After reviewing these changes, as well as the literature on what makes for effective<br /> investments in each of these important areas, the following four recommendations<br /> are offered:</p> Increase overall investment for the state. Widen the definition of &ldquo;a good school&rdquo; to include opportunities. Include families, students, teachers, and community members in financial decision-making. &nbsp; Invest in the whole child. <p> Now, Minnesota has a state government willing to invest in schools again. While the state economy is doing better than the country as a whole, too much of that recovery has accrued to those who were already comfortable. Many working families are still struggling to get by. It is critical that our statewide investment in public schools build on the progress of the last two years.</p> <p> Minnesota&rsquo;s state and local leaders must make smart choices about how to use these resources in their schools. That means broadening our definition of &ldquo;a good school&rdquo;<br /> to include the opportunities it offers beyond test scores. It also means inviting democratic participation in financial decision-making. Finally, it means investing in supporting every child appropriately based on what they need and deserve from their public schools.</p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:15:10 +0000 Money, People, and the Building of Dreams http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/money-people-and-the-building-of-dreams http://mn2020.org/8700 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> On Monday morning, hundreds of people piled into an auditorium and a stuffed overflow room at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs. The reason was <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/271720461.html" target="_blank">a presentation,</a> run by former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, about the work of Generation Next, the massive collaboration of business, nonprofit, and public leaders aimed at changing educational outcomes in the Twin Cities.</p> <p> <a href="http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2014/08/generation-next-plan-start-screenings-age-3-tutoring-3rd-grade-life-planning-" target="_blank">Three efforts</a> headlined Generation Next&rsquo;s event. The first is work to ensure all Minneapolis and Saint Paul children are screened for health and development before age 3. The second is to train tutors from a host of programs and align their work so that every student in the two cities reads proficiently (presumably as measured by tests) by the end of third grade. The third goal is to help every student in Minneapolis and Saint Paul develop a life plan to keep themselves on track for high school graduation.</p> <p> In the presentation of these efforts&mdash;each introduced by Rybak, discussed in more detail by a representative from an organization doing the relevant work, and personalized by someone who delivers that work and/or benefited from it &mdash;as well as the parade of speeches by various notables afterward, the intended message was clear: corporations, philanthropists, and public officials can work together to coordinate services and push them into schools.</p> <p> That notion of <a href="http://www.strivetogether.org/vision/quality-collective-impact-collaboration" target="_blank">collective impact</a> comes to Generation Next by way of the Cincinnati <a href="http://strivetogether.org/" target="_blank">Strive</a> initiative, which has been credited with helping that city&rsquo;s schools improve dramatically. The work in Cincinnati was mentioned briefly, and it warrants more discussion. Joe Nathan of Minnesota&rsquo;s Center for School Change represented the Gates Foundation for several years of its involvement with Strive, and shared <a href="http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/11150746.html" target="_blank">some lessons</a> from his experience nearly seven years ago in the <em>Star Tribune</em>.</p> <p> Those lessons don&rsquo;t need to be treated as scripture. They include some ideas I agree with very strongly, such as involving union leaders in the change process, engaging and empowering families, and respecting and involving teachers in selecting focused topics and workshops for professional development. Others, such as emphasizing competition between schools, I find more problematic.</p> <p> Considering Generation Next&rsquo;s intellectual heritage, though, applying these lessons is instructive about what the effort is and is not doing. There are a few of Nathan&rsquo;s lessons that Generation Next is doing well on, such as creating focused partnerships. For the many lessons that relate to the actual practice of schooling, it looks like Generation Next may have a fair bit of work ahead of it.</p> <p> It could be that I&rsquo;m missing some important pieces of context, but certainly most of the work Generation Next emphasized on Monday was about coordinating outside services that work in schools rather than changing school practice. One exception would be the announcement of the $1.1 million &ldquo;Bright Spots Initiative&rdquo; organized by Target and United Way with help from Generation Next, the Education Transformation Initiative (a collection of foundations and other organizations looking to coordinate philanthropic giving and services around education), the Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Itasca Project (a group of business leaders), among others. The project aims to identify and spread best practices at Twin Cities district and charter schools.</p> <p> Outside of that, the discussion was largely one of collaboration and alignment of services provided by groups other than schools. This is hardly a problem. In fact, one could argue that this is a preferable role for major philanthropy looking to support education. Certainly it seems preferable to the politically-inflected giving and decision-making that too often shape education-related philanthropy today.</p> <p> I did see a couple major groups missing from the stage at Monday&rsquo;s event. While private, public, and nonprofit leaders were well-represented on stage, there was little to no emphasis on the role of families, teachers, and students themselves in shaping the improvement of education. One brief, shining exception was the passionate speech by Husna Ibrahim during the section on life plans for secondary students. Born in South Africa to Somali parents, Ibrahim ended up graduating from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis and is now a student at the University of Minnesota. She credits this in part to Project Success, which helped her through the process of, as she put it, &ldquo;dreambuilding.&rdquo;</p> <p> It is the shared building of dreams that has too often been left out of education reform efforts, and which I wish I&rsquo;d seen more of on Monday. After years, decades even of reform from the top, it is still all too rare to see the people most intimately involved with schools empowered to help change them. It&rsquo;s something we can and should build more of in Minnesota.</p> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:30:05 +0000 Time Shift for School Students http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/time-shift-for-school-students http://mn2020.org/8692 <p> By Nick Stumo-Langer, Undergraduate Research Fellow </p> <p> St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) may follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis and Edina in changing their high school start times to be later. University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom&rsquo;s report: &ldquo;Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study&rdquo; was <a href="https://umconnect.umn.edu/p50372726/" target="_blank">released</a> and <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/12/06/education/study-teens-latte-morning-school-starts" target="_blank">reported</a> on in late 2013 and has provided the basis for SPPS&rsquo; proposed change.</p> <p> The proposal for SPPS would start elementary schools at 7:30 a.m. and begin middle and high schools classes at 8:30 a.m. Dr. Wahlstrom&rsquo;s report contributes many strongly proven academic and health-related benefits to shifting the start times. The study followed multiple, diverse school districts that have implemented changes in start times including Edina and Minneapolis public school districts as well as schools in Colorado and Wyoming. (The study includes over 12,000 students surveyed on all of the following figures and data)</p> <p> The health-related benefits of a start time change are numerous. With the proposed 8:30 a.m start time, high school students will get approximately 8 hours of sleep a night. Wahlstrom also reports a marked decrease in daily cigarette smoking (-9 percent), alcohol consumption (-13.6 percent), marijuana use (-7.7 percent), sexual activity (-11.3 percent) and instances of depression (-10.5 percent).</p> <p> Academically, the results are clear. There was a significant increase in the average GPA of students during their first few periods of class in all four core subject areas: English, mathematics, social studies, and science. Standardized test performances also benefited from the late start times and, although they are only one measure of student performance, in a pre-post analysis, scores on both standardized math tests and ACT increased significantly.</p> <p> Indeed, in a rare instance of a related totally controlled study, the US Air Force Academy tracked students in either an early (7 a.m.) or a late start (7:55 a.m.) class and, over a period of four years, the positive effect was &ldquo;equivalent to raising teacher standard by one standard deviation.&rdquo;</p> <p> Wahlstrom also indicates that, in the results of an additional study, previously low-performing students gained the most in all areas, both academic and health-related.</p> <p> When Dr. Wahlstrom and her colleagues surveyed secondary teachers (around 3,000) on their &ldquo;optimal first class start time&rdquo; 81.7 percent stated after 8 a.m. and 35.7 percent cited a time after 8:30 a.m. as their preferred start time.</p> <p> Now back to St. Paul Public Schools.</p> <p> Many parents have already participated in the open meetings hosted by the district on this potential policy change. There have been many concerns about the policy&rsquo;s implementation; however, Wahlstrom points out that community problem solving can take care of these issues.</p> <p> Realistic <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/08/12/school-start-times-proposal" target="_blank">concerns</a>, demanding answers from those in the district, include: changing athletics schedules, elementary students waiting for the bus earlier in the morning, child care schedules, parent work schedules and local traffic patterns. Each potential problem, however, can and has been solved by the other districts participating in the late start system. For example, to deal with the earlier start times for elementary school students, parents in the Minneapolis public school district took turns standing in their neighborhood bus stop with the children in their community.</p> <p> As long as the community is on board, it appears that the benefits for students and their achievement far outweigh the challenge of solving the problems that arise. While change often isn't easy, it deserves serious attention when the potential benefits for students are so high.</p> <p> Ryan Vernosh, the district&rsquo;s policy and planning administrator and former Minnesota Teacher of the Year, <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/08/12/school-start-times-proposal" target="_blank"> told MPR</a> that &ldquo;education can't be a zero-sum game where the best interests of one group of students is pit against the others,&rdquo; but he has committed to &ldquo;come up with a plan that works.&rdquo;</p> <p> That is why it is so essential for families and communities to be engaged in the decision making process of the school district. We must make sure that families have the full story as to why this proposed start time change may be implemented and what its likely benefits are, to better benefit their children&rsquo;s learning. We must also make sure that this is a conversation, not a lecture, and that families have an opportunity to shape the policy and help address any challenges that arise if the change goes forward.</p> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:52:16 +0000 VIDEO: Rock ‘n Read Project Rolls Out http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-rockn-read-makes-reading-fun http://mn2020.org/8690 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> A Minneapolis nonprofit is on a mission to close the achievement gap and get all students reading at grade level by using an innovative program that brings together new technology and an old city bus. <a href="http://www.rocknreadproject.org/" target="_blank">Meet the Rock 'n Read Project.</a></p> <p> Rock 'n Read executive director, Bill Jones, came up with idea to help struggling readers. He converted a Metro Transit bus into a mobile computer lab outfitted with 30 laptop computers. They use a software program, <a href="http://www.tuneintoreading.com/" target="_blank">TUNEin</a><a href="http://www.tuneintoreading.com/" target="_blank"> to READING,</a> described as a &quot;research-proven, computer-based reading intervention&quot; to engage students in reading through the use of song.</p> <p> The bus rolled out this summer and has helped more than 100 students in North Minneapolis. The Rock 'n Read bus hopes to branch out to many other schools, and recreation centers in Minneapolis as well as St. Paul.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 caught the bus to learn more about this unique program.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:16:09 +0000 Why Head Start Matters http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/why-head-start-matters http://mn2020.org/8679 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> As the lifelong impacts of high-quality early childhood education have become better known, the early years of a child&rsquo;s life have become a matter of education policy. It&rsquo;s also important to remember the importance of publicly supported child care and early childhood education as a way of supporting working families.</p> <p> <em>Education Week</em> has <a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/06/37wop-headstart.h33.html" target="_blank">sketched out the history</a> of the Head Start program, starting in 1965 with its rapid development and expansion as part of President Lyndon Johnson&rsquo;s War on Poverty. Even a conservative critic of the modern program who advocates a voucher approach to early childhood admitted in the article that, for many children and families, Head Start was the best option available.</p> <p> Those who are most skeptical of the program point to the infamous &ldquo;fade out&rdquo; effect. Head Start does provide an academic boost to participating children as they go into kindergarten, but their advantage fades over time, fading away by third grade.</p> <p> This is sometimes held up as an example of the program&rsquo;s failure, although others argue that strong early childhood education&mdash;whether provided by Head Start or another program&mdash;is more like a vaccine. The more children who enter kindergarten well-prepared, the less time and energy teachers have to devote to helping kids who are behind catch up to the kids with, well, the head start. If everyone came into kindergarten with a Head Start style boost (as many middle and upper middle class children do, thanks to their families&rsquo; ability to pay for other early childhood education), kindergarten teachers could lead their entire classes to higher levels as a group.</p> <p> Another advantage of Head Start is its focus on families. Other high-quality early childhood programs share this trait, and Head Start has been shown to have a positive effect on families&rsquo; civic engagement and ability to navigate the social service system. Especially with many other parts of that system being less than user-friendly (and growing more hostile as conservatives find new ways to imply that people working hard just to get by are lazy drug users), the demonstration that a public program can help families be more civically active and personally empowered should be celebrated and replicated.</p> <p> This is not to say that the program is perfect, and the <em>Education Week</em> article devotes significant time to the variations in quality between Head Start providers. Identifying the best ways to address those concerns is not clear cut. There&rsquo;s the conservative arguing for a voucher system. The executive director of NIEER (the National Institute of Early Education Research) favors a decrease in compliance-based regulations that he says stifle many programs. A former manager of Head Start thinks that the program should open up to families at all income levels, with sliding fees for higher income families. This would encourage children from across the socioeconomic spectrum to mix, which he says is good for children from families trying to make ends meet.</p> <p> That last recommendation gets to another reason why Head Start and other public programs for young children are so important. According to the Pew Research Center, <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/08/rising-cost-of-child-care-may-help-explain-increase-in-stay-at-home-moms/" target="_blank">the costs of child care</a> rose more than 70 percent in real dollars between 1985 and 2011. People working to provide for their family for less than $1,500 a month spend an average of two out of every five dollars on child care. For young children, Minnesota is one of the most expensive states for child care, averaging nearly $14,000 per year for infants (third highest in the country) and well over $10,000 for four-year-olds (fourth highest) in 2012.</p> <p> Pew speculated that the costs of child care may well be driving and keeping people out of the workforce, especially when they would have to spend more on child care than they&rsquo;d get paid at a job. In this context, public programs that reduce the cost of child care are good for people who want to work.</p> <p> Head Start, of course, is much more than child care. It is full-on early childhood education. The educators who work with children and families are not simply supervising kids to make sure they have a safe place to be. They are using curriculum and instruction to give students that well-documented boost as they go into kindergarten.</p> <p> As with most areas of education, it&rsquo;s important for Head Start to be well-funded and to invite democratic participation from families and educators. The state and local early childhood and family education programs the serve a similar function deserve the same. Public understanding of the significance of high-quality opportunities for very young children has been growing clearer, and public programs like Head Start have a critical role to play in ensuring we have a robust system to guarantee those opportunities.</p> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 11:20:14 +0000 Education Shouldn’t Be About Market Share http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/education-shouldnt-be-about-market-share http://mn2020.org/8652 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> Since it seems this idea won&rsquo;t go away, let&rsquo;s go another round. <a href="http://mn2020.org/assets/uploads/article/False_Choices_2012.pdf" target="_blank">Markets don&rsquo;t produce equity.</a> A &ldquo;better&rdquo; or &ldquo;purer&rdquo; marketplace of schools will fail at promoting educational equity.</p> <p> The past few weeks have given us ample opportunities to see the conservative preference for turning education (like most other public services) into a marketplace. We&rsquo;ve seen candidates and advocates <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/how-conservatives-co-opt-the-language-of-equity" target="_blank">who have learned to pivot</a> from test score gaps to <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/conservatives-more-wisconsin-style-education-please" target="_blank">vouchers, parent triggers,</a> and other policies aimed at closing district schools and replacing them with a &ldquo;competitive marketplace.&rdquo;</p> <p> These are, to say the least, not new ideas. They&rsquo;ve been tried before and produced mediocre results. This is because the conditions of educational equity&mdash;meaning universal opportunity to get a high-quality education&mdash;are incompatible with the conditions of a competitive marketplace.</p> <p> Students and families who are legally required to receive a free service don&rsquo;t exactly fit the classical economic definition of buyers. (Yes, those who spend their own money on private education are an exception. Requiring everyone to buy education wouldn&rsquo;t exactly be equitable; the free option is necessary for educational equity.) Schools that provide their services at that same free price point aren&rsquo;t any better a fit for the economic definition of sellers. With no one competing on price and &ldquo;quality&rdquo; measured in narrow, questionable test score calculations, it shouldn&rsquo;t be a surprise that the primary tool of school &ldquo;competition&rdquo; is marketing, not pedagogical or institutional innovation. Marketing is easier and cheaper.</p> <p> There are other reasons why educational equity doesn&rsquo;t mesh with the market approach. Competitive markets require low &ldquo;transport costs,&rdquo; meaning it should be easy to connect the buyer with the seller. These include the costs of searching for the right fit. In education, search costs and other transport costs can high enough to effectively keep many working families from accessing their options.</p> <p> Education also isn&rsquo;t the kind of service that allows the consumer to easily hop between brands. Transitioning between schools is almost always disruptive for students, and expecting families to shop around regularly isn&rsquo;t good for students. An equitable school system would also, by definition, serve every student. Schools can&rsquo;t be like a mechanic who declares a car totaled or like a furniture factory that seeks out a different lumber supplier. The analogies are insulting and dehumanizing to students, each of whom deserves a school that will help them move towards success, whether it&rsquo;s profitable or not.</p> <p> This may be one reason why for-profit education has such a rocky track record. The money in education isn&rsquo;t in educating (or at least not in educating well). The focus of schooling should not be on the cost-benefit analysis of recruiting or continuing to serve particular students. The closer education comes to that model, the stronger the perverse incentive to dump &ldquo;bad&rdquo; students into someone else&rsquo;s lap. In many cases, that&rsquo;s easier and cheaper than continuing to try to serve that student.</p> <p> Ultimately, educational equity is about delivering a public service, not a market good. Like fire protection or public parks, free education is available to everyone. (Or at least it should be. There is the occasional town in Tennessee that requires its fire department to <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/10/08/130436382/they-didn-t-pay-the-fee-firefighters-watch-tennessee-family-s-house-burn" target="_blank">watch your house burn</a> with your pets inside because you live just outside the town border and haven&rsquo;t paid <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/12/07/9272989-firefighters-let-home-burn-over-75-fee-again" target="_blank">your subscription fee.</a>) Public services advance equity, especially when it&rsquo;s not profitable for anyone else to.</p> <p> Competitive markets may be efficient, but they do not provide for equity. When we look at the essentials for human survival, like food and shelter, we can see very clearly that markets have failed to produce an equitable outcome. What&rsquo;s more, innovation can happen in the public sector as well as in private marketplaces despite what some conservatives would like us to believe.</p> <p> We must focus on improving the service, not perfecting the marketplace. Involving families in decision-making <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/schools-that-not-only-serve-but-empower" target="_blank">empowers them</a> to help improve the service, while perfecting the marketplace merely empowers them to leave. Working hard to recruit and co-locate the services students need in <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-people-who-make-community-schools-work" target="_blank">community schools</a> improves the service, while perfecting the marketplace means schools are more likely to point students in need to someone else. Using the institutional power of the public school system for <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/making-schools-anti-racist-and-anti-poverty" target="_blank">anti-racist purposes</a> improves the service, while perfecting the marketplace will probably further <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/segregation-by-law-vs-segregation-by-choice" target="_blank">increase segregation.</a></p> <p> There is value in having a diverse set of school options. There is also value in having a strong, reliable public school system dedicated to serving all children. These can co-exist in the same system, and they can exist side-by-side as partners in innovation. Using the marketplace as a tool for dismantling public schools, however, makes equity harder to achieve. Destructive, unproductive marketing competitions don&rsquo;t free or empower families nearly as much as public, democratic schools committed to undoing <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/disputing-destiny" target="_blank">the ills and oppressions</a> of <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/opportunity-gaps-persist-after-college-graduation" target="_blank">our past and present.</a></p> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:00:16 +0000 The People Who Make Community Schools Work http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-people-who-make-community-schools-work http://mn2020.org/8623 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> Five years ago, I was getting ready to teach at Brooklyn Center High School. Both during my time there and in the years afterward, one of the aspects of the school that has stuck with me the most is its commitment to being <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/full-service-community-schools-101" target="_blank">a full-service community school.</a></p> <p> While it&rsquo;s easy to use &ldquo;community school&rdquo; and &ldquo;neighborhood school&rdquo; interchangeably, <a href="http://www.communityschools.org/aboutschools/what_is_a_community_school.aspx" target="_blank">community schools as described by the Coalition for Community Schools</a> coordinate with community partners to provide a range of services on site that help students and families challenge the various barriers, like health or housing insecurity, that make it harder for students to learn. <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/nine-out-of-nine-school-board-candidates-agree" target="_blank">As more advocates and policy makers investigate consider spreading the community schools approach</a> to more places in Minnesota, here are some of the people who make community schools work.</p> <p> <strong>Community schools coordinator</strong><br /> One of the most critical positions to sustaining full-service community schools is a dedicated staff person whose first priority is supporting the framework. Especially in districts where school leadership can change frequently, having a reliable person to provide continuity to the program and maintain relationships with the many community partners who provide services. Since most other people involved with community schools -- students, teachers, families, school leaders, service partners -- have other priorities that draw their attention, the concept has the best chance of succeeding when there&rsquo;s someone else fully committed to it as their job.</p> <p> <strong>School leaders</strong><br /> Co-locating services on the school site is a key component of the full-service community schools framework, so a school leader willing to open up the school to outside partners is invaluable. An uninvolved leader may present an obstacle; a resistant leader can make sustaining the program impossible.</p> <p> <strong>District leaders</strong><br /> Part of ensuring that school leaders are supportive of the framework is district leadership that values full-service community schools and expects school leaders to as well. When districts make support for the concept (or at least openness to it) a hiring priority, and when they encourage training and collaboration, they create an environment more likely to help genuine full-service community schools develop.</p> <p> <strong>Teachers</strong><br /> Teachers often find themselves besieged by new programs and initiatives, especially in districts looking to try anything to improve student performance. It is important for full-service community schools not to become another in a long list of tried-but-abandoned programs. This is where the dedicated community schools coordinator is important, and one of their goals will usually be keeping staff informed and invested in the success of the community schools framework in their schools. In schools where staff turnover is high, this can be difficult, but teachers will generally get on board as they see how the additional services and support help students focus and learn better in their classrooms. As the most frequent point of contact between schools and students, teachers are positioned well to make the first round of referrals to support services.</p> <p> <strong>Families</strong><br /> As I&rsquo;ve written about in the past, <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/schools-that-not-only-serve-but-empower" target="_blank">community schools should not just be about the provision of services</a> at the school&rsquo;s discretion. Instead, they offer an opportunity for engagement between a school and the families it serves. Families become important sources of information about what is most needed in the community, and they can be leaders in setting the direction for the work. This can also be a starting point for empowering families in schools more generally, perhaps creating opportunities for community-driven accountability and better partnerships between teachers and families.</p> <p> <strong>Community partners</strong><br /> Of course, the whole point of the full-service community schools framework is that the school itself is not providing all the services. Instead, it is combining its space and proximity to students and families with services already offered by other providers in the community. Sometimes, for example, the few blocks between a school and a community clinic can greatly reduce the frequency with which students visit the clinic. Putting the health services on site makes it much easier for students to access them. Additionally, as community partners work together with the school, they also work together with each other. This creates opportunities for referrals between community partners as they learn more about individual students&rsquo; needs and about the other services available at the school.</p> <p> <strong>Conclusion</strong><br /> All told, full-service community schools require the engagement of many people from many different backgrounds. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle, though, schools can treat this as an evolving goal. By creating the conditions for full-service community schools to thrive&mdash;especially staffing a community schools coordinator at each school and ensuring school leaders are invested&mdash;schools and districts can use the framework as a means to gather these diverse people together for the benefit of students. Whether it&rsquo;s policy makers in state government or local activists making requests of their school boards, we should work to see more schools adopt this useful approach that does right by children and families.</p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:42 +0000 VIDEO: Lego Learning in the Library http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-lego-learning-in-the-library http://mn2020.org/8621 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota 2020 traveled to the Zumbrota Public library for their Lego Creation Contest which allows children to explore their imagination and build their own creations. Daniel Roberts, an Exhibit Fabricator from the Science Museum of Minnesota, was a special guest judge for the Lego Club contest. Roberts shared how playing with the popular plastic construction toys as a child set the path for his career as a professional builder. Legos are a great way for young children to develop their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills. All of the Legos for the club were donated by community members.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:04 +0000 Disputing Destiny http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/disputing-destiny http://mn2020.org/8599 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> One of the most frequent and laudable refrains in education reform is, &ldquo;Poverty is not destiny. &rdquo; The sentiment is clear and incontestable: Being born into poverty should not determine your future. While it&rsquo;s certainly more aspiration than reality right now, it is at least the right goal.</p> <p> <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/11/opinion/alexander-olson-poor-urban-whites/index.html?hpt=hp_t3" target="_blank">Recent research from Johns Hopkins University</a> has reinforced how far our society&rsquo;s present situation is from that ideal, and how inequitable the chances of escaping poverty are. Starting in 1982, the researchers followed 800 people in Baltimore from first grade into their thirties, and they saw just how tough it is for people born into poverty to enter the middle class. Overwhelmingly, the rich stayed rich and the poor stayed poor. <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602115517.htm" target="_blank">Mobility from the bottom bracket to the top</a> was less than half what one would expect in a fair, meritocratic system, and mobility from the top bracket to the bottom was less than a fourth of what such a system would produce.</p> <p> Of particular painful significance is the difficulty African Americans faced in escaping poverty compared to white people born into similar circumstances. Roughly half of the 800 subjects were born into low-income households, and of those, two out of five were white. As of age 28, very few of the students from under-resourced families had graduated from college, but the white men were much more likely to be employed and to be paid more than the black men.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s also worth noting here that -- contrary to some stereotypes -- white men had higher rates of binge drinking, marijuana consumption, and heavy drug usage, yet still enjoyed better employment situations and pay. Even when black and white men were employed in construction and the trades (possibly the best sector to be in for the observed group) whites were paid twice as much on average.</p> <p> These gaps among people without college degrees mirror the gaps among those with college degrees. <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/opportunity-gaps-persist-after-college-graduation" target="_blank">As Minnesota 2020 has discussed previously,</a> black college graduates between 22 and 27 face an unemployment rate twice the national average for that age group, and that proportion doesn&rsquo;t improve much with age. The disparities at both ends of the educational spectrum demonstrate the persistent power of implicit bias, white privilege, and social connections to affect employment and pay. <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/every-part-of-the-game-is-rigged" target="_blank">These enduring power disparities</a> trace their roots back to a long, countrywide history of racist policies extending well past the end of slavery. (For an introduction to some of these issues, I&rsquo;d recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates&rsquo; <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/" target="_blank">&ldquo;The Case for Reparations,&rdquo;</a> which provides a detailed history of racist housing policy and explores its many damaging effects.)</p> <p> The depth and persistence of <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/we-dont-always-know-when-were-biased" target="_blank">implicit biases</a> and institutional racism that maintain these gaps cannot be addressed through colorblind policy. Policymaking must be explicitly anti-racist and actively invite and prioritize the voices of those communities hurt by racist policy in the past. This includes the school system, a major public institution that will default to perpetuating institutional racism unless its leaders consciously choose a different path.</p> <p> <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-equitable-school-system" target="_blank">An anti-racist school system</a> will look a little different in each school and district, since communities of color vary from place to place and have had different experiences in different towns, cities, and regions. (While many of the economic studies focus on the black-white gaps, gaps exist for other communities of color.) Top-down policy can help somewhat in providing equitable resources, funding <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-present-and-future-of-early-childhood-reform" target="_blank">universal public early childhood education,</a> and supporting <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/full-service-community-schools-101" target="_blank">full-service community schools,</a> but much of the work will need to be done at the level of districts, schools, and classrooms. Teachers and school leaders must be well-versed in the culture and experiences of every community they serve, and <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/why-teacher-diversity-matters" target="_blank">should be more representative</a> of those communities than they are at present.</p> <p> To achieve this, we will need <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/schools-that-not-only-serve-but-empower" target="_blank">more power wielded jointly by families and teachers in schools.</a> Families and teachers will need to work together to set goals for students and hold themselves accountable for meeting those goals. This <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/accountable-to-whom" target="_blank">community-driven approach to accountability</a> is more likely to win support from families and teachers alike, who will appreciate the trust and power it grants them in contrast to the test-driven system that&rsquo;s more common today. The goal must be a genuine sharing of power by the people with the deepest connections to students and classrooms.</p> <p> The sad fact is that, too often today, poverty <em>is</em> destiny. This is especially true for people of color. It should not be that way, and it does not need to be. For the situation to change, though, we need empowered teachers and families working together with the trust and support of state and local policymakers. Even building an inclusive, anti-racist school system will not be enough to achieve society-wide equity, but it can be a starting point. We have significant work ahead of us to build the political will for such a system.</p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:59:30 +0000 The Present and Future of Early Childhood Reform http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/the-present-and-future-of-early-childhood-reform http://mn2020.org/8557 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> That early learning is critical is one of the few points of agreement in today&rsquo;s education reform debate. Unfortunately, actually improving early childhood education on a large scale is trickier than it looks at first.</p> <p> The high return on investment for strong early childhood education has become a well-worn talking point. Estimates as high as $16 of benefit for every $1 invested raise eyebrows and catch attention. Those benefits come from many sources: higher income (and thus higher tax revenue), lower K-12 expenditures for special education or remediation, and&mdash;one of the most beneficial&mdash;lower crime rates, producing lower justice system expenditures and &ldquo;savings&rdquo; for victims. Of course, some students benefit more than others, and the return on investment numbers capture trends, not absolute guarantees for each student.</p> <p> Defining what constitutes a high-quality early childhood program is still a challenge. While individual programs with high returns on investment are known&mdash;<a href="http://abc.fpg.unc.edu/" target="_blank">the Abecedarian Project</a> at the University of North Carolina, <a href="http://www.cehd.umn.edu/icd/research/cls/" target="_blank">the Chicago Child-Parent Centers,</a> <a href="http://www.highscope.org/content.asp?contentid=219" target="_blank">the HighScope Perry Preschools,</a> and others&mdash;it&rsquo;s tougher to identify the characteristics that are most important for replicating those results. The variation in Head Start program quality also demonstrates the difficulty of bringing quality to scale.</p> <p> We do have some clues. In general, the most impactful early childhood programs combine small class sizes, significant opportunities for parental engagement, and well-crafted learning environments with well-trained staff and strong curriculum. This offers some starting points, but the scale is still daunting.</p> <p> Why is scale so important for early childhood? Just as the benefits of a vaccine are at their greatest when most people in the population have taken it, the benefits of great early learning are greatest when most children have them. If all the children in kindergarten Room A come well-prepared, the teacher can lead the whole class together. If only one of every four students in Room B shows up with a head start, the teacher must split time between them and the students who are behind. The well-prepared students in Room B aren&rsquo;t likely to advance as far as all the students in Room A, even though both started from the same well-prepared place. This is one possible reason for &ldquo;fade out,&rdquo; where a program&rsquo;s benefits shrink over time.</p> <p> The privatized nature of early childhood education is another complication when trying to scale up access to great early learning opportunities. Unlike the K-12 school system, which has long been a universal public option, the early childhood landscape is a patchwork of both small at-home providers and larger center-based providers in the private sector, as well as district-provided opportunities and Head Start programs in the public sector. Understandably, creating policy that builds quality in all these environments has proven tricky.</p> <p> One popular approach is to create a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and give families money to attend programs with higher ratings. In Minnesota, the rating system is called <a href="http://parentawareratings.org/" target="_blank">Parent Aware,</a>&nbsp;with <a href="http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/JustParent/EarlyLearnKReadi/051922" target="_blank">Early Learning Scholarships</a> for families. The basic idea is to create a definition of quality and encourage the market to move towards it, while providing more information to families.</p> <p> It would not be totally out of line to describe the scholarships as vouchers&mdash;especially since <a href="http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2014/06/busily-seeking-with-continual-change-some-mn-conservatives-flee-cae-preschool-voucher-love.html" target="_blank">some conservatives object to using them at public programs</a> -- although their disruptive impact is smaller than K-12 vouchers since so many early childhood providers are already private.</p> <p> There is a case for more direct public provision of early childhood services through the school system, especially given <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/false-choices-the-economic-argument-against-market-driven-education-reform" target="_blank">the murky track record of market-based education reform.</a> Oklahoma has seen positive effects from creating a universal preschool system, and many Minnesota districts&rsquo; early childhood programs are both high-quality and popular to the point of having long waiting lists. Especially since it will be years until Parent Aware&rsquo;s hoped-for effects on the marketplace could fully materialize for many families, taking other steps to increase access to strong early childhood opportunities using the school districts that already serve most families in the state would make sense.</p> <p> Respecting existing early childhood providers and helping them improve is a worthwhile goal. However, if we want more families to access high-quality options for their young children quickly, we should pay more attention to helping districts grow their early childhood programs. Creating more free-to-use early childhood options through the readily accessible, familiar district system also helps working families struggling to pay for increasingly expensive child care, even if they get scholarships. District-provided programs can also be more easily connected to early grades&rsquo; curricula and instruction, smoothing students&rsquo; transition into their elementary years.</p> <p> The ratings-and-scholarships market approach to early childhood could take quite a while to pay off, if it ever does. Strengthening public provision of early childhood education in all communities should get at least as much, if not more, of our focus.</p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:00:45 +0000 Development By Teachers, For Teachers http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/development-by-teachers-for-teachers http://mn2020.org/8533 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> Two of the most groan-inducing, but potentially powerful, words in teaching are &ldquo;professional development.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s easy for professional development to be a waste of time and money. Certainly I remember plenty of mostly-useless cases when I was still teaching. It doesn&rsquo;t have to be that way, though.</p> <p> Whenever teachers don&rsquo;t change their practice&mdash;because <a href="http://www.ejmste.com/v4n1/Eurasia_v4n1_Chval_etal.pdf" target="_blank">the topic wasn&rsquo;t relevant to their needs,</a> because they weren&rsquo;t given time or support to make changes, because there was never any sustained focus on the topic, or because of any other reason&mdash;an opportunity has been missed. The classic example of this is the sit-and-get lecture approach to professional development, where an expert is brought in for a day (or even just a couple of hours) to deliver a slideshow. As it turns out, most one-off development sessions, even if they&rsquo;re more interactive, <a href="http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/downloads/report/aera_designing_0.pdf" target="_blank">tend not to be as helpful</a> as focusing on the same idea for a longer duration of time.</p> <p> Beyond sustaining attention to a topic beyond a single session, <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X10001435" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s also important for teachers to be heavily involved</a> in designing and delivering professional development. Those familiar with the practice of teaching are in the best position to know what does and doesn&rsquo;t make sense in the classroom context. This is obviously one of the more common issues with technology-related professional development, where teachers are given a tutorial on the mechanics of the tool and maybe shown a couple of cool ideas for how to use it, but with no broader sensibility about using the tool meaningfully in instruction.</p> <p> <a href="http://learningforward.org/docs/pdf/nsdcstudy2009.pdf" target="_blank">The importance of teacher-led professional development</a> goes beyond technology, of course. Theory is always better when informed by practice, so those leading development sessions will have more earned credibility when they are still close to the classroom. Additionally, seeing teachers leading group development sessions encourages a sense of ownership over personal professional development. If I&rsquo;m an individual teacher struggling with a topic, it can be reassuring to see someone who&rsquo;s gone through similar struggles and been successful, and I&rsquo;ll also be more likely to think of areas where I&rsquo;m already an expert and could contribute to colleagues&rsquo; growth.</p> <p> The value of teacher-led development is also affected by how similar the leading teachers&rsquo; experiences are to those of the audience. A presentation on what works best for classroom management or family engagement by a teacher from Los Angeles probably won&rsquo;t be as helpful for teachers in Bemidji as it would be to other LA teachers.</p> <p> Locally determined professional development can be more responsive to local needs, and knowing that the presenter has experience with &ldquo;our kids&rdquo; builds credibility. Keeping professional development local also increases its sustainability and the ease with which the topics can be revisited and supported over the course of the year. It can be embedded in coaching observations, Professional Learning Communities, and other facets of school life, and it means that the experts are much closer and more accessible.</p> <p> Keeping a significant share of professional development teacher led and locally driven, then, is key to ensuring that development time, money, and effort are well spent. It encourages a sustained sense of shared responsibility and builds awareness of where accessible expertise already exists. This fosters a culture of growth for all teachers, empowering them and creating positive feedback loops for improving professional practice. As this grows stronger, schools and districts become better able to respond to emerging local needs.</p> <p> Laying the groundwork for local, teacher-led development requires that teachers (and their unions) be able to provide high-quality professional development, including time for reflection and improvement so that the quality of teacher-led development is continuously improving. Many teachers and union leaders are already strong in this area, but it must remain a point of emphasis. In particular, professional development offers an opportunity to build relationships with local experts and communities and turn development sessions into opportunities for collaboration on supporting students both in and out of the classroom.</p> <p> Many educators have found ways to create opportunities for local, teacher-led development, even when their school or district leaders have been uninterested or unsupportive. Many unions have been excellent at supporting this work, and the more they can do to build their own capacity for professional development, the better off they&rsquo;ll be.</p> <p> Ideally, local and teacher-led development wouldn&rsquo;t just happen at educators&rsquo; instigation. School and district leaders should do more to invite this type of development and to offer support to teachers interested in creating development opportunities for their colleagues. Too often, teacher-led development is seen as competing with district-directed preferences. A more helpful approach would be to view professional development as a partnership between teachers and administrators to provide as much high-quality support as locally as possible.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s easy to get cynical about professional development, especially when bad experiences often create more lasting memories than good ones. We should do more to transform development into a chance to recognize the excellence that local teachers already bring to the table, to appreciate the hard work many have put into becoming genuine experts, and to create a professional culture of constant improvement without harsh judgment.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 11:00:47 +0000 Video: Adjuncts Vote to Unionize http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-adjuncts-team-up-for-a-union http://mn2020.org/8534 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> On the heels of a successful campaign to form an adjunct faculty union at Hamline University, adjuncts at St. Thomas will vote this week about whether they would also like a union. Advocates say their work at UST is not compenstated sufficiently, and that instructors face a level of uncertainty and job instability around issues like class assignments, schedules, work space, and more. As contingent labor, individual faculty members have limited power to negotiate better terms, but organizers hope that collectively they can have more influence over the terms of their employment. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:00:48 +0000