Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Scrap the MAP" and TFA!

Last Tuesday, February 12th, the Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM) continued its campaign to end high-stakes standardized testing.  For the second Minneapolis School Board meeting in a row, PEJAM teachers and parents went to call on them to "scrap the MAP" (Measure of Academic Progress test).  Our efforts were strengthened by the District's decision to start their meeting with a "Public Hearing on Negotiations."  This hearing was billed as an opportunity for the public "to share their perspectives on what they would like to see be a part of the school district's union employment contracts."

This was clearly an opportunity for the local corporate reformers to come and bash teachers and attack seniority.  As a result, Minneapolis teachers, parents, and union members came in overwhelming numbers to not only defend our contract, but to identify the actual problems our schools face.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and former School Board Member Pam Costain

Aside from Pam Costain, a form Minneapolis School Board member, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (who is out of office in less than a year and seems to be looking for work with one of the corporate education reform groups), the vast majority of speakers called for less top-down mandates and less testing.  The one contract people seemed most interested in was the District's contract with Teach for America (TFA).  As outline in earlier posts(see HERE and HERE), TFA has not just found its way into the classrooms, but have a strong presence in District leadership, including our newest school board member, Josh Reimnitz
Josh Reimnitz - TFA alum and new Minneapolis School Board Member
Teachers and parents are trying to raise awareness as to what TFA is really doing in Minneapolis (see above links on TFA) and how it is hurting our students.  TFA needs be kicked out of Minneapolis and they can take the standardized tests with them.

Click here to view the Public Hearing.  The first half-hour was an "open" public comment section, the next hour is the official "Public Hearing on Negotiations."  Parents and Teachers discuss their concerns in both sections.

Posted by: Rob Panning-Miller

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Out of our way kids!

The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce is showing how much it values public education by interrupting it.  Tomorrow, February 14th, the Chamber will hold an event that is part of its Leadership Twin Cities program in the Media Center of Roosevelt High School.  This is during the students’ day, from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Students will be unable to access the books, computers, and other resources in the Media Center before, during, or after school.

You might think teachers and students would have enough notice so they could work around it.  It would not be that big of an inconvenience.  Of course you would be mistaken.  The history teachers had already scheduled the Media Center for their students’ History Day projects, including using it on February 14th.  They were told last week that they would have to make other plans.  They and their students are being booted so future business leaders can “reach a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing today’s schools.”

The program flyer claims they are trying to understand educational issues in the community, so it makes sense to visit a public school, interact with the students, talk to teachers and understand what they face everyday.  Unfortunately, that is not why they are there.  The schedule lists a “Tour of Roosevelt High School” from 12:30 – 1:00 p.m., but staff was told that item had been cancelled.

So how will they learn about the “challenges and opportunities facing today’s schools?”  From people who are working the hardest to destroy teachers’ collective bargaining, de-professionalize teaching, and privatize public schools.  The agenda includes the following speakers:

·      Pam Costain – Former Minneapolis School Board Member, now CEO of Achieve Minneapolis.  On the school board she worked aggressively to strip seniority rights of teachers with regard to transfers, and has used her new position to fight to end seniority layoff protections (LIFO).  She is an advocate for more charter schools and Teach for America (TFA).  Costain was a key supporter of Josh Reimnitz.  Reimnitz is our newly elected school board member who learned how to run a large urban district by teaching for two years as a TFA teacher.  Josh is also listed as one of the planners of tomorrow’s event.

·      Jon Bacal, is the “Chief Entrepreneurship Officer and Founder” of Venture Academy, a new Minneapolis charter school scheduled to open this fall (yes, that really is his title).  He has made a living promoting charter schools including his two years serving as Executive Director of the Office of New Schools for Minneapolis Public Schools (2009-2011).  His talk is titled “Charter Schools’ Role in Education.”

·      Kerry Muse is the Chief Learning Officer and Head of School for the same Venture Academy charter school.  He has spent the last six years as a math “teacher” at KIPP Bay Area Schools.  His Linkedin page only identifies him as earning a Bachelor of Arts, Fine Arts.  That’s it.  No educational degree.  No math degree!

·      Daniel Sellers, the Executive Director of MinnCAN, will finish the day discussing “Issues in Education Reform.”  According to his Linkedin page, starting in 2006, Daniel was a Teach for America teacher in Eastern North Carolina.  He taught 6th grade math, and by his second year, he had “essentially eliminat[ed] the achievement gap between [his] students and their peers in wealthier communities.”  This despite no evidence of earning a teaching degree or license, and teaching math having earned a B.A. in sociology and anthropology!

The other speakers are Sondra Samuels, President and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, Rob Grunewald, an economist, and Adrienne Jordan, Assistant to the Superintendent/Liaison to the Board of Education for Minneapolis Public Schools.  None of these three have ever taught or earned a teaching license.

So why hold this meeting at Roosevelt High School when students are in class?  Roosevelt is one of the many urban schools that “reformers” like these label a “failure.”  They have a simple plan for failing schools – close them and replace them with a charter school.  Tomorrow, Roosevelt students will not have their Media Center.  If many of the people involved in this meeting get their way, they will not have Roosevelt High School.  

Posted by: Rob Panning-Miller
["STOP" image is from: ]