January 26, 2007 Update — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
</strong>If this is your first update from Parents United, welcome! Please let us know if you have questions or experience any problems with your mailings from us.
Important Dates (more info. below)
Monday, February 5, 2007, 10:00 – 11:30 AM
Metropolitan Council State of the Region
Monday, February 12, 2007
5th Annual Parent Leadership Summit
“A New Framework for Funding Our Schools”
In This Issue
At the Capitol
Parent Leadership Summit
Metropolitan Council Event
On Our Website
Stay up-to-the-minute on Minnesota and national education news: Bookmark our website’s News and Events page for easy access to the latest information.
At the Capitol
Some of the most substantive conversations I have heard at the Capitol in the last years are being held in all of the education committees. If you want specific information about future hearings and all the info you need to visit, please check our site.
Senate Education Committee
This committee is taking its work out into the community. These meetings are open to all, and are not just for parents in that specific school district. Parents United encourages you to attend one close to home! To find out where they will be check our website.
The Senate Education Committee was out in Minnetonka and Woodbury this last week and the presentations were tremendous. On Tuesday evening, representatives from Stillwater Area and South Washington County Schools did a tremendous job speaking on the issue of testing and reporting. The main issue is that the MCAII tests are summative tests; the federal No Child Left Behind law demands these tests from each state as a way to “test” schools. But for timeliness, informing curriculum, informing instruction, motivating students and predicting outcomes of success, formative tests (testing individual student progress) are what works. This creates a conundrum for us all and a sense of over-testing students.
On Wednesday this theme continued with the Minnesota Department of Education giving an overview of testing in the state of Minnesota. The Department is well aware of the frustrations being experienced by our students and schools. Testimony was taken by several stakeholders, including Cathy Gallagher, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator from Chaska Public Schools who was able to testify about the effects of testing “from the trenches”! Dirk Madsen, Director of Assessment and Testing for the Department of Education, stated that the idea of “Online by 09” is now in the bottom drawer; his statements made it clear that this initiative simply can’t happen.
Parents United testified about the problem with using these tests to rate our schools like restaurants and movies. Parents United has always been opposed to this simplified version of reporting complex issues to the public. We asked for the state move quickly in the direction of growth models so that reporting of test results would give a more authentic picture of how our Minnesota schools are performing. Both of these testimonies can be reviewed at the website.
Senate E-12 Education Budget Division
House E-12 Education and House K-12 Finance Division
These two committees are having a joint Public Hearing on Tuesday January 30 from 7-8:30 at Glover- Suddeth Center, 2100 Plymouth Ave. N. in Minneapolis. For more information, click here.
Also, On Thursday, February 1, at 2:15 in the State Office Building, Room 10, the K-12 Education Finance Committee will have a hearing on P.S. Minnesota. An excellent meeting to attend!
Both House committees this week reviewed the policy and financial implications of the Governor’s K-12 budget initiatives. The broad brush of Governor Pawlenty’s proposed 2% increase on the per pupil formula met with an underwhelming response. Chair Greiling asked how the number of 2% was arrived at, since other inflation indicators appeared to show a greater inflationary need; she also indicated that this issue would be revisited. FYI, dollars for English Language Learning and Special Education would also be increased by 2%. It was noted that even if special education were to increase by 2%, costs are increasing by 4% annually. The Minnesota Department of Education agreed that this is true.
Chair Mariani was interested in discussing the five-year cap on English Language Services, pointing out that research suggests that students need more years to succeed. Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren agreed and said she believed the number was seven years. It would seem that there will be discussion about raising this cap. The cap was placed in legislation in 2003 to hold down the costs of ELL services.
The other initiative that was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm by committee members was the idea of giving three-star schools an additional 2% for “succeeding.” Commissioner Seagren made the case that these initiatives are meant to drive reform and produce greater results.
A K-12 budget like this is put together in consultation with the Minnesota Department of Education and there are a fair number of really excellent ideas in the mix. I will just mention a few to contemplate. They are suggesting funding for:
Regional math and science academies to train teachers in these fields.
Collaborative urban educator programs to increase the diversity of our teaching force.
Minnesota Reading Corps, which has shown great success in using early intervention to increase student success.
Pilot programs using an alternative school calendar.
More information is available in the Department of Education budget.
From a process point of view, what happens now is that individual bills start being heard in committee. It is a given that the Governor’s budget will be translated into individual bills, as well as many more bills coming from 201 legislators. If the conversations in committee hearings remain at this level, this should prove to be a very engaging legislative session.
February 12, 2007
Parents United 5th Annual Parent Leadership Summit
8:00 am – 3:30 pm, 1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Join us at this event – by parents, for parents – to learn and talk about P. S. Minnesota, a new framework for funding our public schools. We are eager to have the feedback of public school parents on this important issue. The Summit is also a great opportunity to network with public school parents from around the state to share both the challenges and highlights for our kids and our schools.
After the morning event, we will again be heading to the Capitol to speak with our legislative leaders. The intent of this Summit, and all of our work, is to bring the parent voice to the forefront of conversations affecting our public schools. Because this is an event for parents, we have kept the cost at $15.00 for the entire day. You can register and get additional information at our website.
If you live further than two hours from the Twin Cities, we have grant dollars to defray your cost of traveling to attend this Summit! We have limited grant dollars for this venture, so if you are interested, please let us know!
Metropolitan Council Event
Council Chair Peter Bell will reflect on the past as well as look at the future at the 2007 State of the Region event Feb. 5 at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. Click here for more information.
See the connections between the Achievement Gap and the charter of the Metropolitan Council at Saint Paul NEAT’s page on Institutional Racism.
On Our Website
Questions? E-mail Mary Cecconi.
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Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
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