Project Sponsor
Tools
The Education Achievement Gap: Minnesota's Embarrassment
The Achievement Gap: Idea Generator
September, 2004

The Education Achievement Gap

Idea Generator


Ideas: Families | Teachers | Schools | Dollars | Society | Other | Help/FAQ
DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Ideas for:Schools

Sort ideas by date | Sort ideas by rating



4 rating
(2 votes)
Programs and mentors
A couple of the ways that I feel will help close the gap is to have effective after school and summer school programs and mentor programs year round.

First, we should start identifying struggling students at the lower elementary levels (k-2).

Then we should create after school programs and summer school programs for these students. These programs should focus in three main areas, which are english, math, and science. These students should continue with these programs through out their elementary school years. If necessary, create after school and summer school programs for middle and high school students who are struggling in the three areas.

Second, we should create mentorship programs to help support the after school and summer programs. Mentors can help encourage and support the students by being their tutor and friend.

Created on 11/28/04 by sopheap kruoch of winona, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
All-day Kindergarten
I say why not start early? School is where children are shaped into knowledgeable adults. Children should be attending all day kindergarten in an effort to start developing the necessary skills to succeed in school. Starting children right away will give each of them the opportunity to be exposed to all the essential materials needed to be successful in school.

In the article titled Racial Learning Gap Defies Easy Explanation or Solution by Tim Pugmire it is stated that “less than half the kids in Minneapolis start kindergarten with essential literacy skills…” Later in that article Principal Nell Collier says “getting those children enrolled in all-day kindergarten, rather than the traditional half-day, can help close the achievement gap early.”

I strongly agree with the statement by Nell Collier. I feel that exposing every child to reading materials at the same age will give them the chance to advance their skills at a similar rate; this can be done by having all-day kindergarten. Why not start all-day schooling in kindergarten? I believe the earlier teachers start helping children and giving them the knowledge they need to succeed the better off they will be in the long run.

Created on 11/27/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(3 votes)
Reduce class sizes
One of the many steps toward better education would be to reduce class sizes so there is a smaller teacher-student ratio. Wisconsin's Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program, which involved reducing class sizes, came to the conclusion that "class-size reduction benefits all students, but its effects (were) especially powerful for African Americans."

As a future teacher, I completely agree that reducing class sizes can greatly benefit ALL students' learning. Smaller class sizes can allow more teaching strategies to be implemented, such as hands-on activities. When there is a smaller teacher-student ratio, students can get more one-on-one time with teachers, and teachers can get to know and understand their students. Knowing our students is very important because it helps us develop teaching strategies to fit their learning styles.

Created on 11/22/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Environmental learning
According to a study done by Dr. Gerald Lieberman and Mrs. Linda Hoody of the State board of education, environmental-based learning has been a proven success in closing the achievment gap.

I was particularly intrigued by the study, because of the constructivist teaching method. EIC (Environmentally Integrated Context) involves students creating their own knowledge through topics of their interest. By allowing students to choose their curriculum and follow their own path in learning, the student will take ownership of his/her own learning. By taking ownership and pride in what they have done, students are more likely to succeed.

According to Lieberman and Hoody, EIC breaks down traditional boundaries between disciplines, provides hands-on learning experiences, adapts to individual students needs, and develops an understanding and appreciation of the community and natural surroundings. These are all important when students are to create their own knowledge from learning experiences.

Created on 11/22/04 by Winona State University Student of Winona, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Utilizing curriculum ideas designed by community members
We live in a global society. The literature that is presented to our children in the classroom should reflect that. If it does not, then all students, particularly, those not represented, are at a decided disadvantage.

Why not begin to use materials designed by people who grew up in the community -- people who are products of public school systems; people who care about the kids, because they are their kids?

The Triangleheads and Their Friends is a curriculum that embraces diversity. It embraces the philosophy that we are alike in many ways, but at the same time we are also very different. It takes into account students who may be at the same grade level, but who have dissimilar educational footing.

Background, environment and curricula exposure have a huge impact on the academic foundation on which a student will have to build on. Some students’ academic environment and background knowledge are such that they have been exposed to very rigorous curricula, others have not.

Created on 10/20/04 by Valerie Rose of Eagan, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Fixing the Gap
Schools need to identify students of color who are struggling at an early age. By the end of first grade, these students should be assessed to identify their specific needs and struggles. Students who score consistently below their white classmates should be offered different options to help fix the problem.

Schools could offer a summer school program and highly encourage these identified students to attend. After-school programs with tutors and volunteers could be organized for these students to receive extra help and assistance. Parent programs should also be utilized to encourage involvement outside of the classroom.

Overall, the sooner schools identify students who are scoring lower than white classmates, the sooner proactive strategies can be used to help them learn more effectively and narrow the achievement gap. Schools should make early intervention a top priority.

Created on 10/19/04 by Liza Tegeler of Elkader, IA

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(2 votes)
Parent advocacy with the gift of time
Our own personal case has proven that poor children are not always more at risk of not learning to read because their parents are poor but because their parents cannot afford the extra time required to navigate the educational bureaucracy that follows a child who needs extra help.

Most people do not realize the staggering amount of hours needed to successfully advocate for a child needing extra help in school because of a learning disability. It is a system built to afford only the rich and the extremely lucky passage to a lifetime of rewards that only an education can offer if you are among those with a learning disability.

Things to do:
1. Laws for parents to advocate inexpensively.
2. Evaluate every child coming into school by the end of first grade if they have not met specfic educational goals.
3. Teach staff and peers about learning different learning styles.
4. Fund schools to overhaul teaching materials schools use.
5. Have parent advocates not accountable to schools

Created on 10/18/04 by Rebecca schmitt of woodbury, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Identify and build on what works
Identify those children of color who are achieving at grade level and document their family and school experiences. Find the common elements and incorporate them into the educational expereinces of others.

This may mean providing quality early childhood education programs for poor families, giving books to families who don't have them, or sharing quality magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Reward those teachers who are successful with recognition, adminstrative support and opportunities to share their techniques and practices with their colleagues. Not in a system of competition but in an arena of cooperation and team work.

Recognize and beware of self-fulfilling prophecies and racism. Poor and Black children who do well deserve attention and praise. They must be challenged to continue their efforts. White and affluent children who are not achieving at grade level need attention and help.
The hard work of making sure that all children succeed must be based on valuing all children.

Created on 10/18/04 by Beverly Cottman of Minneapolis, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
It's time to examine gifted and talented identification
Gifted and talented (g/t) students not identified at a young age can grow up to become bored and frustrated in school. On Tuesday, November 9, at 4:30 pm the Saint Paul School Board will receive a report on the education of g/t students in the district. One part of the report is on identification.

In 2003-2004, 311 of 871 or 35.7 percent of white kindergarteners were identified as gifted and talented. In contrast, just 56 of 824 or 6.8 percent of African American SPPS kindergarteners were identified.

The nonverbal ability test currently employed, supplemented with a portfolio review, is not working. Each of the last two years the Office of Accountability reported larger than expected discrepancies in identification between white students and black and Hispanic students.

Better identification of racial and ethnic minority gifted and talented students is necessary so that more children will be educated to their abilities. Only then will all children reach their full potential.

Created on 10/18/04 by Elaine Dunbar of St. Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



3.5 rating
(3 votes)
How schools can help close the gap
No honest and accurate discussion about the achievement gap can occur nor can any solutions be found without examining institutional racism in our schools. Whether it is the culture, structures, and procedures of low expectations, whether it is culturally irrelevant or biased curriculum, or whether it is the staff not reflecting the students of urban schools, these among other forms of institutional racism must be addressed if schools are going to close the gap.

Collaborative communities of teachers and learners are also critical, particularly in working with students of color who come from cultures and communities with more of a collaborative, extended-family orientation. Raising student achievement of traditionally underserved populations cannot be done solely by one or two outstanding teachers; it takes a whole focused community of learners to raise achievement. When teachers collaborate with each other, with other adults in and out of school, and with students themselves,

Created on 10/14/04 by Paul Spies of Minneapolis, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Create a positive learning environment in the classroom
After teaching in the Minneapolis School District for seven years I am convinced that only radical policy changes will eliminate what is euphemistically called the "achievement gap".

1) Hold class size to a maximum of 20 students. Eliminate most Educational Assistants and non-teaching personnel and increase the number of classroom teachers. Unless this is done, nothing significant can be accomplished.

2) Move chronically defiant, disruptive students from regular classrooms to classrooms where these students can work on basic skills of following instructions, cooperation and self-control. Virtually every class each day of my seven years of teaching in Mpls was significantly disrupted and the 90% of well-behaved students lost anywhere from 25% to 50% of on-task learning time.

3) Fundamentally revise curriculum to focus on African-American history, society and culture from slavery to Rap. Emphasize African-American achievement in the professions and the arts and de-emphasize sports.

Created on 10/13/04 by Peter Blewett of Apple Valley, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Migrant program for high-mobility students
The high-achieving Dayton's Bluff Elem. School is faced with a 50% mobility rate (half the students in each classroom move in or out during the school year). Some students just move around a lot. These chronic movers should be given the appropriate schooling as migrants whose attendance is periodic or unstable.

Migrant education includes a portfolio that moves with the student to indicate the student's curriculum level, instructional characteristics, current and past projects and skills mastered, contact persons for further information, etc). Continuous progress is possible even in the face of disruptive life events.

St. Paul has a high mobility rate, and when chronic, places the students at maximum risk for failure and eventually dropping out. This special migrant approach/program that has been successful with at-risk students just might help a huge proportion of St. Paul pupils.

Created on 10/13/04 by Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D. of Winona, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Increase the length of school year and day
Research indicates that review of subjects in the fall is time consuming and necessary because children forget what they have learned when away from school for more than six weeks.

By increasing the number of days in school and spreading those days through out the year, children will be able to learn more and better with less time reviewing what they have learned.

My plan would have students attending school for 45 days, followed by a week of vacation. If the school year began in September, the school year would extend through July with the full month of August for vacation. To balance out the year, more days, or weeks of vacation could be included.

Part-time school, with focus upon motivation, field-trips, and specific deficit skills required for the next term would also be included during the weeks of vacation for children in poverty.

Increase the length of day available in school. Provide after school activities and supervised study time.

Created on 10/12/04 by Janice Charpentier of River Falls, WI

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Nuture the artist in students from other cultures.
I am involved with an arts organization which has an educational component that features the contributions of African Americans to the arts.

After 14 years, this program has grown to reach out across the state and beyond. One of the many lessons we have learned is that the whole range of arts is very integral to African American culture.

While we are a choral organization, our education program includes dance, theater, spoken word, music, visual art and - for this year, in tribute to Gordon Parks - photography too. This came about because of the nature of the African American culture. It would not remain focused on just music. That would not be authentic.

I tolerated school because of the wonderful arts programs - choir, orchestra, theatre, band. I got high grades in the academics but the arts kept me from being bored. It gave me social relationships, problem solving skills, self esteem, and so much more. Enriching our arts (and sports) access will motivate student learning.

Created on 10/12/04 by Faith Rynders of Mounds View, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(2 votes)
Engagement gap
One of the primary limitations with debates over the “achievement gap” is that the categories we use to frame the “gap” are not capturing the essence of the problem. The notion of an “achievement gap” is based on a disparity in “achievement” test scores for African American/Latino/Native American students and White students.

The problem with the "achievement gap" framing is that it puts the onus or blame for the gap on the students, not the institutional structures and practices that create the gap. Rather than defining the gap as an “achievement gap” that puts the onus on students, the gap could be defined as a “skills gap.” (Steele, 2004).

However, simply teaching “skills” for the primary reason of improving test scores serves to dump down the curriculum and to disengage many students from school. My own preference is to define the gap as an “engagement gap” suggesting the need for activities that actively involve students in ways that give them agency and literacy practices.

Created on 10/12/04 by Richard Beach of Minneapolis, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Parental & community involvement
As others have noted, parents and the community need to be involved in the schools that their children attend. To that end, I would propose a community center model that transforms the factory school model to incorporate services such as career counseling, community organizations, social services, library (print and media) services, governmental services, park and recreational services, medical dental and nutritional outreach as well as educational offerings for students and adults that occur simultaneously throughout the day. The school should be accessible for most of the day (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

The school should have a board that can hire a leadership team, manage the finances and make broad policy decisions. The board would be elected by the community the center serves. So governed, the center can get the appropriate people, equipment and program for its' needs.

One of the largest issues for schools is our separation from our communities. "Our schools" is an oxymoron.

Created on 10/12/04 by Brian Vedder of Saint Paul, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Cognitive skills for students...
The need for problem-solving and social skills improvement can be attested to by the rates of incarceration in the state as well as the achievement gap.

Yes, there are many other factors as well -- food, clothing, a safe home environment -- but if students do not have the tools to effectively communicate with their peers or teachers, learning becomes difficult. They already have incorporated cognitive behavioral therapy in British Columbia, Canada Schools. How progressive is Minnesota?

Created on 10/11/04 by Mat Olson of Duluth, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Encourage free thinking
We are the hardest working country in the world and in the classroom it shows. I don't remember ever not having homework from the time I was in second grade to the time I graduated from high school.

The one thing I remember specifically is that the work was usually doled out in order to keep the student busy and lacked substance. For instance, much of the work I was required to turn in was merely regurgitated answers that I found in the text. This is not to say that none of the exercises done was unhelpful--some were.

Most of the schoolwork did not require me to think for myself. All answers could be found somewhere in a text or from lecture notes. This is a huge problem--we are not free thinkers in this country--I never even heard the term 'critical thinking' until I was in college.

This problem is a question of quantity versus quality. This is a value that we must change if we wish to improve the educational system in this country.

Created on 10/11/04 by Greg Wesson of St Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(7 votes)
Maintain lower class sizes
I could do a better job, if someone would just give me fewer students to work with. It doesn't matter who they are, what issues they come with, what skills they have and how many schools they have attended in the past, if I had more individual time to know them, work with them and could truly have a handle on who is understanding and who is not--everyday--I could meet their needs.

I know the behavior management part of my job would be at a minimum, if the students could get the attention they need from me in a positive way and I could spend more time instructing them, enjoying them and encouraging them.

I would be willing to give up computers, aides, EVEN all but the basic materials to JUST HAVE fewer students to be responsible for.

There is nothing in my mind more important than giving teachers a classroom of 20 students maximum ACROSS ALL GRADE LEVELS. Students need individual attention throughout their educational careers.

Created on 10/11/04 by MJ Walker of Woodbury, MN

7 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Join hands and make a cup
I have four children and come from generations of educators. I am a graduate student at the U of M and this is one simple step to get us all closer to "closing the gap". Ask every individual P-18 what they need in order to be a better learner. From Pre-school to Graduate School, there is an achievement gap in one way or another.

In the following order ask them from their eyes and experiences how we can make their school better, how we can make their teachers better, how we can make their classmates better and finally how we can make them better. This would be asked of every learner in our educational systems every year until they graduate from high school, college or graduate school.

My father taught me, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". Asking them these questions in a formal or informal way every year does that. So instead of using both my hands to carry the water, I will ask a child to help me and together we will accomplish our task.

Created on 10/08/04 by Tex Ostvig of Long Lake, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(11 votes)
Use the TRIO model on a state level.
There is a proven and effective federal program that is already in existence that serves low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities -- but the state program could focus on our minority populations.

The federal TRIO programs are made up of students who mirror our nation's mutli-cultural and multiethnic society. Thirty-seven percent of TRIO students are White, 35% are African-American, 19% are Hispanic, 4% are Native American and 4% are Asian-American.

These programs serve students from 6th grade through doctoral graduation. Services include, academic advising, tutoring, mentoring, study skills and a host of skill-building services to help students be successful and stay in school.

The success of this program could be replicated with minority students on the state level. We already have a proven record of success and accountability. With state funding we could collaborate and serve more students.

Created on 10/08/04 by Janell Holter of Rochester, MN

11 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Use daily newspaper as an in-class instruction tool
Research from the University of Minnesota reveals that students who have been instructed from daily newspapers in class outperform students who have not by 10% on standardized testing. That difference increases to 30% for students of diversity! Recent research from the Newspaper Association of America has drawn the praises of Rod Paige (Sec of Ed.) and Walter Cronkite on the enduring influence of reading newspapers in-class.

As part of a national initiative, local papers deliver on-site to schools any papers requested by a teacher. Typically, those papers are paid for by individual subscribers through the paper's 'vacation donation' program or local business sponsors.

Links to the U of M research follow:
www.naa.org/foundation/pdf/MeasuringUp.pdf
www.naa.org/foundation/measuresuccess.pdf

Created on 10/08/04 by Tom Siqveland of St Paul, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



1 rating
(7 votes)
Home school standards
What about rural areas? There are many people, usually of strong religious persuasions, who decide to home school their children, sometimes all the way through 12th grade.

There is no state oversight for those who homeschool their children. The fact is that many are not giving their children the skills and academic rigor necessary to survive college or the workplace. They are under the radar, and in some cases, the parent has stopped home schooling all together due to divorce and family strife.

This becomes neglectful, and we must hold parents who home school to account for their children's education, for they alone have control over it. Moreover, it is virtually impossible for one person to teach a child all the subjects necessary. If there are religious objections to standard education, the public schools must be receptive to these criticisms. In the end, we must put agendas aside, and raise our kids to be knowledgable and prosperous.

Created on 10/07/04 by Alexander De Marco of Minneapolis, MN

7 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



2.5 rating
(2 votes)
Ideas to fix the gap
1. Use the schools as social centers with programs going on all day and weekends. Make school family-oriented.
2. Make schools inclusionary, not exclusionary. The very nature of school excludes, sorts, and labels kids so corporate America can get a free, competent corporate employee or cheap obedient laborer.
3. Have super subs, so the substitute teacher is not a baby sitter showing a video, but a super teacher putting on a high-powered seminar.
4. Have low achievers go to school all year.
5. Have more after-school programs.

Created on 10/07/04 by Jack Goldman of St. Paul, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



1 rating
(1 vote)
Ideas to close the racial achievement gap
1. Require one to two years of intensive English before going to school.
2. Don't let kids go home if they are in a bad environment.
3. Shut down public schools and let a new education system evolve. The current one is a unionized, bureaucratic, broken system.
4. Stop using schools for social agendas and teach the subjects where the gap is in reading, writing, and math.
5. Change the content. Way too much time is given to silly content. Where is time management, memory skills, goal setting, and so on taught?
6. Stop using education for class separation. Unequal income based on education is the true crisis, not education.
7. Put educational material on local public cable channels.
8. Get rid of seniority for teachers. Pay teachers a dollar per student, per hour. You can pick your own pay. Let the kids evaluate your progress with financial consequences.
9. Force parents to volunteer.
10. Stop sorting kids and start teaching them. Teachers really don't matter. Kids do.

Created on 10/07/04 by Jack Goldman of St. Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



3 rating
(1 vote)
Individualized instruction
I have taught inner-city students and many have experienced prior trauma or ongoing trauma. This makes it very difficult for them to focus and find school meaningful.

I propose that learning be conducted using three formats:

1) Individualized learning through learning packets that are computerized and also paper/pencil. Students learn material at their own pace with the assistance of a teacher and paraprofessional.

2) Learning packet concepts are followed up by small group cooperative learning exercise run by a teacher to reinforce individual learning packet concepts.

3) Large group setting in which concepts are grouped into themes and presented in a muliti-sensory way such as a field trip to MIA or a play or a slide presentation.

Learning would incorporate as many senses as possible with an emphasis on hands on learning.

I feel this approach would meet the student where they are and be more conducive to forming bonds with their teachers and fellow classmates.

Created on 10/07/04 by Zoe Hazenson of Eagan, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Make the classroom a lab
Many people, maybe even most people, learn in a style often called trial and error. We apply what we know and then ask for more information when we see the need. Ask in any office environment how an employee would like to learn a new piece of software, read the manual or learn the principals of the program and give it a try, then ask for help. Very few will say read the manual.

Our children are going to be in those same percentages. They want to see the need for knowledge, then get bits of knowledge, then apply the knowledge. I believe we need to make the classroom, for the fundamentals especially, a lab. All introduction of new material and personal learning, i.e. homework, is done in the classroom. Parents are too busy or absent to give the information the trial-and-error learner needs.

A simple exercise at the beginning of the year will guide the teacher an idea which students learn this way. There is no undone homework, no non-supportive home handicap, no dread of school.

Created on 10/06/04 by Anita Nelson of St Paul, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
All parties held accountable
If teachers, schools, and districts are to be held accountable for student achievement, then students need to be as well.

Achievement is measured by standardized tests. As a former teacher I have seen many instances where students do not do try to do the best they can on these tests. There is no incentive for them to do so other than the effect it may have on their school. They feel no ramifications personally for poor performance on these tests. I have seen some students fill in all "c's" and then put their heads down for the remainder of the testing time.

I don't have a solution for how students should be held accountable for the scores they get on these tests, but until they are, I see a huge flaw in this system. All stakeholders need to be held accountable.

Created on 10/06/04 by Beth LaVigne of Duluth, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Principals must be properly positioned in the community
Only the principals can provide the leverage that positively links education to community-wide early reading skills growth.

School performance measurements, starting in grade three, demonstrate the importance of early reading skills gained at age three to six.

Principals are very talented, highly paid public servants who already are in place to help at-risk children.

Principals and schools have much to gain by becoming influencers -- leading the combined clergy, media, executive directors, business, and effective citizens to use a proven method.

Created on 10/06/04 by Tom Wolfgram of Maple Grove, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(4 votes)
Research-based school practices
Closing the achievement gap and improving overall student achievement should not be a matter of conjecture and speculation. There are numerous research studies that point to specific factors that must be in place for high levels of learning to occur.

1. Positive school & classroom culture.
A community of learners(both staff, students& parents)who feel respected, accepted, connected & empowered.
2.Knowledge used meaningfully. Learning experiences that are relevant, interesting, engaging, and allow students to demonstrate a higher level of understanding and proficiency.
3. Reinforce effort and provide recognition. Teach
and exemplify the connection between effort
and achievement.
4. Develop educational coherence. Instruction,
assessment, curriculum and professional development must be fully aligned.
5. Develop the leadership capacity (administration and teacher) to implement and sustain continual improvement.

All high performing, low SES schools have these factors firmly embedded. ( www.mcrel.org)

Created on 10/05/04 by Vernita Mickens of Denver, CO

4 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(9 votes)
All-day kindergarten
Fund all day kindegarten for all students, rather than only have it available for families that can afford to pay. It provides more time for children to learn the basics and have time for specialty time, such as music, science and art.

By working on the alphabet and early reading skills in kindegarten, more children will have the basic skills needed to learn to read. State funding should also be available for four-plus programs. This will lessen the disparity between children who attend quality daycare and children who have not had those socialization and pre-academic skills.

Created on 10/05/04 by Marikay Litzau of St. Paul, MN

9 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(4 votes)
Phonetic-based reading curriculum: Master the English language
I would like to see schools reinstitute curriculums that require all students, especially student of color, to master the alphabet and the sounds for English language.

I am a teacher in a low-performing school. I see 5th graders that do not understand basic spelling rules. They are expected to work out of text they can barely read. The Spaulding Writing Road to Reading curriculum is an excellent curriculum. Ortin-Gillinhham curriculum works. The Sunday system works. Get back to basics.

I am a reading resource teacher at my school. It is October and students have not been assigned to work with me. They are being tested over and over to reveal something we already know. Jump in and don't be affraid of the word "phonics." I've taught using the phonograms and it works. I teach students to understand the language they read and write as well as enjoy quality literature. It can be done.

Created on 10/05/04 by Levette Thomas of Minneapolis, MN

4 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Hire teachers who teach from success
School districts are scrambling all over themselves trying to hire retired soldiers, and it isn't because they are such good disciplinarians. Soldiers are taught to teach from the day we enter basic. We recognize the fact that there are five steps in the learning process: exposure, manipulation, assimilation, regurgitation, and dissemination. That last term, dissemination, means that the last step in the learning process is teaching.

Colleges are recruiting from the workplace, hiring professors who are active and successful in their fields, and we need to do the same. There are three kinds of power, constitutional power, (the power that the law gives you) charismatic power, (because we are all such nice people) and expert power (the kind we do, or do not wield in the classroom). Hire teachers who are good at what they do, who recognize that they need to put that knowledge in other minds as part of their learning process, and who aren't afraid to keep learning themselves.


Created on 10/03/04 by Charles Consaul of Horizon City, TX

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(4 votes)
Teach music and reap the benefits
I just attended a conference on Special Education (funny, I thought all education was special) and I heard some validation that made my heart leap up with joy. It seems that a lack of the basic knowledge of phonemes, specifically rhyme schemes, alliteration, and cadences, were part of the rise in dyslexia. I said to the presenter, "Doesn't that sound like chorus to you?" And he actually said, "You're the Man!" and he wasn't being sarcastic. Our students are being given a double whammy in this area, because the other place they used to get positive reinforcement in this area was in their institutions of spiritual training and renewal, (when I was little it was called a church) but now it is largely missing.

I know that bands and orchestras cost money but choruses are much less expensive and apparently very, very necessary in this dysfunctional culture we are fostering. Singing uses a unique area of the brain and any time we use three distinct areas we prioritize what we want to learn!


Created on 10/03/04 by Charles Consaul of Horizon City, TX

4 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(47 votes)
Want to teach reading and math? Try singing!
Music has been called the universal language, and is a part of most peoples’ daily lives. The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition, defines universal as “common to all situations.” Merriam (1964) states, “music is a universal trait of humankind” (p. 27). Hodges (1996) affirms, “song is an integral part of culture” (p. 484) and asserts, “singing is universal” (p. 495). Abeles, Hoffer, and Klotman (1994) clarify this common metaphor when they state, “music is not a universal language; it is a universal form of humanistic expression” (p. 285).

Since music is a “universal,” one of the most effective ways I see to close the achievement gap is to have children singing every day. Songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” have a Big Book format to affirm reading or songs like “This Old Man” offer the opportunity to affirm counting as well as rhyming. Songs are an appealing way to focus students’ attention and provide “teachable moments.”

MPR’s Tim Pugmire states, “Achievement gaps are often attributed to income level and home environment. Low-income families often have few educational resources at home. (And) recent immigrants don’t always have the English language skills needed to keep pace in school.” Daily singing can help bridge these gaps by providing a rich resource for classroom discussions to augment children’s background knowledge as well as develop their English language skills.

Created on 10/02/04 by Elizabeth K. Beery Olson of Farmington, MN

47 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Desegregate inexperienced teachers, eliminate tracking
In Minneapolis Public schools, inexperienced teachers are concentrated in racially isolated schools. A whopping 608 teachers were laid off this years, including 455 probationary teachers. There were fewer than 1,700 teacher positions in regular and special Ed programs budgeted for the 2003-2004 school year, and some were not filled.

The solution: stop excessive layoffs and distribute probationary teachers more or less evenly throughout the district (weighted toward schools where teacher turnover is low and the average length of employment for teachers is high.

Ability-grouping practices in the Minneapolis Public Schools also contribute to the racial learning gap. If the district takes steps to desegregate inexperienced teachers and cut teacher turnover rates along the lines suggested above, the district could phase out "low-ability" curriculum tracks without watering down the content of the "high-ability" tracks into which most students would be integrated.


Created on 10/02/04 by Doug Mann of Minneapolis, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Teach to the culture, research the successes and find the money
It is no wonder African American students perform poorly in our schools. I am currently enrolled in the Urban Teaching Program at MCTC. One of the learnings I have come away with is the importance of understanding cultural differences in the classroom.

The plight of the African American student started with the horror of slavery back at the very beginning of the Euro occupation of this continent. In 1896 a Supreme Court mandated that segregation was legal provided all else was equal. The concept of Separate but Equal remained in place until 1954 when the Brown family challenged the School Board of Topeka, Kansas. I believe that we are experiencing the backlash of the neglect to integrate cultures today.

It is very important to talk to students of color and find out what engages them. Find out whom the teachers are that reach the whole student body and achieve successful results. Learn their methods and find the money to train other teachers to teach to all students.


Created on 10/01/04 by Jean Harrington of Minneapolis, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



2 rating
(1 vote)
Uniform teaching
If every school had the same books and educational media, that alone would save money! Training or teaching people the same way offers uniform education to all without any credence to ethnicities. With everything being same/very similar, problems in the system can be worked out very quickly and efficiently.

It has worked for the military very well. Having gone through boot camp, a Caucasian has as much to say as an African American, as do Latin people, Asians, everybody. They should raise the bar on expectations and hold schools, teachers, and parents liable for the performance of their students/children. If not, than we will have to outsource our jobs because the kids graduating won't be able to handle the requirements of these basic jobs. The Department. of Education stated years ago that 1 in 4 high school graduates couldn't even read their own diploma. It shouldn't even be 1 in every 1000! This is where government needs to step up and fix this now!


Created on 10/01/04 by Jared Rardin of Grand Forks, ND

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(3 votes)
Mentoring programs in schools
MENTOR! MENTOR! MENTOR!

Stable, consistent and positive adult role models can help boost confidence, promote drive and goal setting for students. A mentor can give a student the individual attention a teacher does not have the time, energy, or resources to give each student. A mentor can help to hold students accountable for their studies and choices in school.

It also keeps the community involved in the school systems and with our communities youth. It sets a good example of volunteerism for future generations.

Created on 10/01/04 by Melissa Hansen of Eagan, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



3 rating
(1 vote)
Vested in education
People who go to college and graduate have a need for the college degree. They see it as a stepping stone to something else that they want in life. Maybe it is a job or a graduate school or even just the praise of their entire family.

To narrow the achievement gap, under-performing populations in schools need to become vested or reinvested in school. They need to see a need for education. Establishing mentor programs, internships, and vocational education experiences are ways of helping this population to become vested in education. As a nation we have turned education into the same formula for everyone.

Does everyone need to go to college? Does everyone need to have advanced math and advanced science? Where have all the experiential learning classes gone? We need culinary arts, wood shop, and basic office skills classes. Real skills for the real world will help students stick with education and complete high school.

Created on 09/30/04 by Kathryn Kindle of Minneapolis, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(1 vote)
Help from role models
Have youth that are students of color and that are college bound mentor middle/grade school children of color after school. This will provide a positive influence for the younger and children as well as someone to help them with homework and with problems that they do not feel comfortable discussing with adults. Make sure that all participants are students of color and work with middle school students of the same racial group.

For example, black students will have an older college-bound black student as a role model. This will inevitably bring up test scores as well as increase the number of students of color that go onto college. White people can help but not be mentors. Connect the mentors from the high school with advocacy organizations at local colleges so that they in turn have college role models and can discuss the pressure facing students of color in predominantly white academic atmospheres.

The first part of this plan is already used in Illinois at schools like Evanston Township High School and has been very successful there it is called Questioning Understanding Educating Students Together or QUEST.

Created on 09/29/04 by Matthew Loecker of Minneapolis, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
More acceptance of diversity. funding, charter schools & high expectations
I think that all teachers and staff need to be more accepting of students of color and not make derogatory comments about these kids and how things have changed.

Also, the expectations should be the same for all students in the class. Yes, I agree that we (teachers) need to be sensitive to problems that students might be facing. However, these problems should not be a crutch for them not to do their school work or to be held accountable for their actions. Moreover, additional support needs to be given to students who are not at grade level.

Public schools need to be funded appropriately by the government. Lastly, charter schools should not be able to kick a student out after "Count Day." Charter schools receive funding for a student and after count day the student is asked to return back to the public school and the funding stays with the charter school.

Created on 09/29/04 by Bobbie Ray of Apple Valley, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



2.5 rating
(6 votes)
Required college preparation curriculum for all
True economic opportunity in the United States of America today requires citizens to have some postsecondary education. Unfortunately many students of color and low-income students do not access higher education because they did not adequately prepare in high school for a college curriculum.

Many states such as Indiana, Texas and Ohio are implementing a mandatory college-preparation curriculum in high school. The argument is that we need to set high expectations that all students need to leave high school prepared for college. Setting that high expectation in high school creates a ripple effect throughout the system.

States which have implemented a strategy ensuring that students take college prepatory math, science, english, second language and social studies have had a positive impact on the most important achievement gap: high school graduation and college attendance.

Created on 09/28/04 by Bruce Vandal of St. Paul, MN

6 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Friendly tutoring!!!
I was a failure in high school. I hated math, physics and chemistry. I was frustrated because I could not understand the concepts and I could not solve the problems. I moved from one problem to the next, and the frustration increased accordingly.

I thought that I was stupid untill I met Dale Bratke, a math tutor at North Hennepin Community College. He helped me with the subjects I had difficulties with, he did not give me the answers but he showed, without putting me down, how to get them! Maybe that's what minority students need. Perhaps the white students could volunteer to help their minority counterparts with reading and math and save the school district money.

The minority students would benefit from the tutoring, increase their understanding and have an interracial friendship. The white student would develop teaching skills, the more they would teach the more they learn. This experience also could teach compassion, understanding about minorities and students could earn extra credits!!!

Created on 09/28/04 by Flavio Abreu of Brooklyn Center, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(5 votes)
Project-based education
I'm currently the director of a public charter school that is focused on the foundations of Expeditionary Learning. Subject areas are blended together to create learning expeditions that allow more "hands on" opportunities, and are project-based.

Students operate in small classroom settings; are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning; and are "pushed" to do their best work at all times.

While the majority of our K-8 population is white, testing results for our minority students has been very positive. The school has been able to create a culture of togetherness working with community circles and a strong conflict-management program.

Large amounts of time are allowed for project work--in essence, working on areas that students are passionate to discover. Small class sizes, teachers at times learning right alongside the students, and a safe environment add up to a school meeting the needs of its students.

Created on 09/28/04 by Scott Anderson of Bemidji, MN

5 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(4 votes)
Put students at the center of education
“One-size fits all” schools and rules are not working with the diversity of today’s students. Our centralized education model puts lawmakers and districts at the center of education decisions and leaves teachers and students out. A decentralized student-centered model is the direct inverse – it caters to students needs. In the past 10 years, nearly every industry including financial services, retail, health care and even government services successfully changed their operating models to revolve around us: their customers, patients, and citizens. This requires decentralizing decision-making to schools and using student needs to guide local decisions.

For Minnesota schools, this means: 1) Preparing and empowering schools to customize their teaching and practices to their students, who are increasingly students of color; 2) Give school administrators full authority to make decisions including: managing their budgets and personnel; creating effective learning environments, customizing curriculum; and creating inclusive school cultures. Our children of color can do better only if we give our teachers and principals have all the tools possible to succeed.

Created on 09/27/04 by Susan Wollan Fan of Minneapolis, MN

4 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(3 votes)
College prep for all Minnesota students
Too many Minnesota schools have an unofficial two-track system, one for the college-bound (i.e. post-secondary two- and four-year programs) and the other track for those struggling to make it through high school. This second track is disproportionately filled with students of color. This creates a downward spiral of achievement – fewer minority students are preparing for and succeeding in college so fewer aspire to it. Today, nearly all Minnesota jobs require some post-secondary training.

Minnesota public schools should adopt a “college prep” program for all students. This means that from the day students enter kindergarten, they know they are being groomed for college. Every child, including every child of color, will have the academic preparation and support to expect to attend college. For this to happen, schools today will need to examine every aspect of their operations and culture to eliminate the second track including:

- attitudes and expectations of minority students,
- special education placement process,
- learning tracks and academic rigor
- behavioral and discipline models, and
- school climate, culture, and community.

Success breeds success.

Created on 09/27/04 by Susan Wollan Fan of Minneapolis, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(3 votes)
Study successful schools
Study the best practices of schools that have successfully transformed low-performing, poverty-stricken schools into academies of excellence, particularly those with a high percentage of African American students. For example, check out Amistad Academy, at http://www.amistadacademy.org/index.html.


Created on 09/27/04 by Deb Soulen of Minneapolis, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(17 votes)
Use market-driven school choice
There is no one right way to solve the problem of the achievement gap. There are many needs and what works for one child will not work for another. Therefore we need to change the way education is delivered to a more market-based and individualized approach.

We must convert every public school into a charter school and allow all students to "shop" for the school that best meets their needs.

But we must allow those schools flexibility. Some might incorporate health services into their program. Others could include a day-care option. Schools might focus on a particular learning style like a program for kinesthetic learners that incorporates a lot of physical activity. Another school might specialize in a particular group of English language learners. A school might be just for transient kids and include a transportation option that follows them around to wherever they live.

Parents would pick schools that got results and all our kids would be better educated.

Created on 09/25/04 by Kathy Rogers of Minnetonka, MN

17 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4.5 rating
(7 votes)
More schools, smaller in size, with limited scope of teaching
In the last 40 years the America's student population has doubled; but the number of schools serving them has been cut in half. Mega-schools have replaced little school houses. The result has been less accountability and low performance.

I suggest a reversal in the structure, delivery, and intent of education. There should be more schools. They should be smaller. And the core subjects they teach should be reduced to English, math, and technology (with 1/4 of the day open to electives).

Also, parents need as many educational choices for their children as possible. With small, competitive, and differently themed schools a unique place for every child can be created.

If schools were plentiful, limited in scope of curriculum to the essentials (but varied in electives), and kept to a manageable size, everyone's needs - parents and students - could be met. It would be easier to identify special needs, to isolate poor performance, and to produce a desired effect: educated children.

Created on 09/24/04 by Christopher Stewart of West Saint Paul, MN

7 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



1 rating
(1 vote)
Inquiry-based instruction
Every human being is born capable of learning. Learning is an inquiry-based activity and all cognition is driven by inquiry from the moment of birth.

School practice is driven by the right answer which denies the student access to their inherent ability to learn and imposes a regime which can be best defined as social engineering.

Learner-based instruction begins with student inquiry and empowers students to take responsibility for their learning effort and promotes success. It begins with the student's understanding rather than with the assumptions of the school.

Little of current educational practice is based on what we know about learning and violates virtually every notion of individual cognitive capacity and autonomy. Modern educational practice is and always has been a preparation for an acceptance of life in an industrial society rather than promoting and supporting the urge to learn. Inquiry with collaborative and constructivist approaches to instruction best supports learning.

Created on 09/23/04 by Rogier Gregoire of Edina, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



3.5 rating
(3 votes)
Teach about multiple intelligences
We do not expect all to wear a size 6, why do we only measure the linguistic and logical portions of intelligence (through IQ tests)? Measuring multiple intelligences is the change "regular education" needs for accountabily to their customers, stakeholders and themselves.

Information on multiple intelligences can be found on Harvard University's-WIDE World Professional Development Courses. (http://learnweb.harvard.edu/wide/)

The significance of teaching about multiple intelligence Authentic Problems Pathway lies in its potential to connect classroom learning to real life situations. Unlike many educational tools, the goal for Authentic Problems Pathway is to provide a chance for students to learn and apply "real-life situations by using real life".

When students are given the opportunity to think, solve problems and learn to effectively communicate, they become independent, productive, self-determined, integrated and included citizens. We need to make a positive change in our educational system. If we use multiple intelligences correctly, we will also lower our special education numbers.

Created on 09/23/04 by Bonnie Jean Smith of Minneapolis, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
As students might say: "Fix the culture, stupid."
In Education/Evolving's 2003 paper profiling ten Minnesota chartered schools, students said that their schools' "positive culture" attracted them, retains them, and makes a difference in their motivation to learn. Some said the factors they see as influencing positive culture, below, are prerequisites to learning.

Students might say decision-makers could reduce the achievement gap by valuing--even demanding--the following in school design:

- Small size of schools and classes
- Students' familiarity and regular contact with teachers and with other students (which contributes to their sense of safety)
- Individualized instructional methods
- A well practiced school mission or focus (e.g., the clear commitment to the African culture at Harvest Preparatory School)
- More flexibility in scheduling and pacing of learning
- Teachers' increased role in school-level decision making
- Individualized instructional methods

For more, see the "Positive Culture" paper, www.educationevolving.org.

Created on 09/23/04 by Kim Farris-Berg of Saint Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(1 vote)
Back to basics
Virtually every district in the state squanders money, some on pools for elementary and middle schools, some on buildings, and some on staff. Start by putting the dollars into EDUCATION not staff, property and extra-curricular activities.

The very next step is to redirect some of the excessive per pupil expenditures on special needs programs. The masses are suffering for the extrordinary expenditures on those very few students with special needs.

We also need to focus the education. Reading, writing, arithmetic are the "core" studies, and the schools need to focus on that, not on basketball, soccer, or languages.

English is the language spoken in the USA. If you are in school, you speak it, period. Just like all our ancestors, if you want to speak in your native tongue, do so, but at home. All my ancestors EXPECTED their children to learn and speak English, we should too.

Finally, do not differentiate by color, because it does not matter. I don't buy the race argument for one second.

Created on 09/23/04 by John Gislason of West Saint Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



2 rating
(1 vote)
Mentoring programs in urban schools
Support African American Mentoring programs in urban schools with funding and trained, experienced administrative staff.

Students meet both bi-weekly as a group over lunch with their in-school coordinator and also individually weekly and/or as needed for assistance with school, family and personal issues. A parent is required to attend the weekly afterschool event: an educational component, dinner, social time. Transportation and child care for families needs to be provided during these evenings. Provide an annual retreat for families and staff. Coordinate health and job resources. Provide long term involvement through graduation, including incentives for higher education.

Created on 09/22/04 by Barbara Smith of Eagan, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(7 votes)
Abandon the "Factory School" model
The core problem is the inefficiency of our outdated "factory model" of education. We spend more, yet achieve less, than other industrialized nations. Instruction is labor-intensive, buildings are under-used, and we spend too much on administration and transportation. The problem is magnified in urban districts that lack the expanding tax base needed to absorb these inefficiencies.

Urban districts should phase out expensive, centralized secondary schools in order to focus more public resources on elementary education at the neighborhood level. Concentrate teachers (labor) at the elementary level, and don't graduate students from elementary schools until they acquire basic skills.

At the secondary level, promote skill-building and lifelong learning instead of graduation. Sell off big school properties in favor of a system of small, specialized learning centers supplemented with online learning and other discrete, flexible techniques to help students define their own educational paths.

Created on 09/21/04 by Neal Miller of Saint Paul, MN

7 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



3 rating
(2 votes)
Get back to the basics
We have to get back to teaching children the basics: Spelling words, math flash cards, hand writting and phonics-style reading. These are things that can be accomplished in the classroom.

The "powers that be" say parent involvement is what's missing. Parent involvement is great but how many people 40 and over had parents coming to school regularly? Not many. Give these children tasks where THEY can see the outcome. Explain to children what's expected of them. Too many times it's just something to do not something that's required. Material is presented in a roundabout style not directly.

I realize families are different now than in the past but children still love to achieve. You have to instill pride of achievement when they are young and this can be done by presenting the basics in a straightforward classroom based manner. Development progresses in a very basic and logical line, keep that line straight and orderly. Children will respond very readily.

Created on 09/21/04 by Amber Cheney of Bemidji, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Promote unity among schoolchildren
As a 15+ year veteran of urban teaching in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Barberton, Ohio, I will set forth these simple ideas that I believe will motivate children, K-12, to encourage EACH OTHER to learn and be successful in school.

1. Uniforms
2. Year-Round School
3. Uni-Gender classroom in core courses.

These three are particularly vital in an urban setting because they do more than any other proposals to promote unity and a sense of family, something that is so drastically lacking in the urban setting (and increasingly in the suburbs as well).

Once kids realize they're "all in this together", nothing works like peer pressure in helping kids stay on the "straight and narrow". Yes, kids are kids, but look at the example of the nuclear family where one kid feels the parents are "siding" with another sibling. The "dynamic" is fragile, whether it's a classroom or a family household. If a "team identity" is constructed, with the teacher as the "coach", they WILL pull together.

Created on 09/21/04 by Rex Hamann of Andover, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Use tax programs to help cross the digital divide
The Hopkins School District, with tremendous community support, supports a junior high-based digital divide crossing program that uniquely uses a third-party lender to help low-income families access money available to them through the MN Education Tax Credit.

Participants enroll in the "Get Connected" program which is designed to improve academic success through direct instruction, structured incentives and, crucially, through building relationships.

Students feel like they belong to the academic community when they are able to use computers at home to complete their assignments (required)-- and are able to maintain ongoing communication with their teachers via email (also a requirement).

We are beginning our fifth year of operation and are encouraged by the results thus far. Notably, this program is only one of a myriad of integrated strategies in the district which appear to be collectively garnering us meaningful success on this absolutely vital issue.

Created on 09/20/04 by Siri Anderson of Hopkins, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



3 rating
(5 votes)
Cull the charter schools that are bottom feeders
I have no problem with charter schools in theory. Some are excellent private schools that simply changed their classification in order to get public funding.

However, I worked at a charter school in St. Paul that was purely a money-making bottom feeder, with no ability to give a decent education. They did not teach physics or any language besides Spanish, and barely offered any social science. They recruited among "dead end" students who had nowhere else to go, so the school had a paid-up captive audience.

The school still exists, but with a name that was changed at least once in the last few years. Multiple detailed complaints to CFL went unheeded.

Now, you might wonder how a rickety school like this was even allowed to exist. I am not sure myself, but it points to the need to tighten up the charter school regulations, with emphasis on protecting the students.

Created on 09/20/04 by Paul Perkal of St. Paul, MN

5 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



1.5 rating
(4 votes)
Don't penalize for late homework
The educational gap between African-American males and others is the widest. Boys get worse grades than girls. And the solution is relatively simple: no penalty for late homework.

Boys get worse grades because of neurological and biological reasons. Here's a positive example: A young African-American man at Piedmont Technical College failed to show up for the final exam. But a faculty member really wanted him to pass the course. So she scheduled a make-up exam at the test center. He showed up a week late there too. But she really wanted him to pass the course. So the test center gave him the test. He got a 97!

There is absolutely no evidence that penalizing boys for late homework helps. Give African American boys a chance. Don't penalize them for biological and neurological characteristics.

Created on 09/20/04 by William Draves of River Falls, WI

4 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Reformulate kindergarten funding
The state funding formula should distinguish between schools that offer full-day, all-week kindergarten and part-time kindergarten programs. It obviously costs more to run full-day, all-week programs, yet the state calculations do not reflect this reality.

Created on 09/15/04 by Asad Zaman of Inver Grove Heights, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(3 votes)
Adopt meaningful measures of progress
Many non-AYP schools are currently being penalized for the failures of other schools.

Oftentimes parents only realize that their child is suffering when the child is significantly behind their grade level. By the time parents move their failing child to a charter school, the child is often already one or two years behind their peers!

Under the current system, the charter school then has one year to demonstrate three years worth of progress for that child, in the absense of which the school is listed non-AYP.

A more meaningful measure of progress would be to measure students for improvement (delta-change) rather than their current status. This could be applied for students who have changed schools in the past 3 years. This way, the current school would not be held accountable for the failure of the previous schools.

Created on 09/15/04 by Asad Zaman of Inver Grove Heights, MN

3 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



1 rating
(1 vote)
Schools should partner with faith based organizations
Schools should partner with faith-based organizations like churches and mosques and other community centers to be more involved in the lives of the students and their parents. This could be optional for parents.

Many parents are more at ease in the presence of the local priest, rabbi or imam. This would also have the effect of involving reluctant parents in their child's education. At times, the religious/ community or tribal leader can explain the need for involvement in ways a school cannot.

Created on 09/15/04 by Asad Zaman of Inver Grove Heights, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(2 votes)
Make sports work for the student
Put a greater emphasis on learning, growing and teamwork instead of individual glory and winning.

In a society focused on winning, sports programs in school have gotten away from their original intent and have become "win at all costs" events.

This takes away from the positive aspects of sports:

- Staying in shape.
- Learning how to work with one another as a team.
- Learning how to win with grace and lose with dignity.
- Respecting authority.
- Achieving excellence.
- Doing more than you thought you could ever do.

And sports helps student avoid just "hanging out" in places where you can get into trouble.

The lessons learned in sports could transcend the field of play and be used in all aspects of life, including the classroom.

Created on 09/15/04 by John Jansen of Minneapolis, MN

2 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



4 rating
(1 vote)
Create schools that motivate kids better
Most schools are what has been described as 'batch processing'. Kids work in groups. The course is programmed, by month and week and day.

There isn't much opportunity for a student to take more time on a topic that s/he finds interesting. The course moves on. A lot of it seems abstract; not much related to real life.

What if, instead, school and learning were more individualized, so students could learn in a topic-area they found interesting and useful to them? This is possible now, with computers and the web.

What if kids could earn real money doing real work; learning at the same time? Too many schools probably are still using the old classroom methods designed 100 years ago for the students of that day. A lot of city kids might not be motivated by this kind of school.

Perhaps existing schools can change enough to do this. Perhaps it'll be necessary to create new schools to offer the individualized learning.

Created on 09/14/04 by Ted Kolderie of Saint Paul, MN

1 comment | Vote/comment on this entry



0 rating
(0 votes)
Improving early literacy
No question: Kids who start school behind, who do not come to school with a basic knowledge of words and sounds and colors and ideas, are especially challenged. A part of a successful effort to close the performance gap - at 12th grade or even at 8th grade - will be to improve early literacy.

This community is now thinking a lot about how to do that. Action may involve work with parents. Or it may involve programs of 'early education'. We need to think carefully, though, about how to build such a program. Is it best built out of the district? Or is it best built out of the existing program of pre-school child care?

Created on 09/14/04 by Ted Kolderie of Saint Paul, MN

0 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



5 rating
(10 votes)
Focus on Early Literacy
The best way to address "closing the gap" is to make certain there isn't one in the first place. The way to do that is to start early -- for both mothers and children. First, we must provide excellent pre-natal health care and nutrition for the mother including a chemically free pregnancy and subsequent health care and nutrition for the preschool child.

Second, we must do better with the millions of dollars spent on early education programs, Head Start and child care. We know what the early literacy skills are that children must know by the time they begin kindergarten. Millions of children learn these skills all the time. Those with "the gap" don't. We need to be certain that all children learn these skills. One effort could be an "Age 3 to Grade 3" school. Pre-k programs and a K-3 school would join together in the community with a common focus: literacy by the end of third grade. Revenue from the pre-K programs would come together here. Parent involvement is a key aspect.

Created on 09/13/04 by Robert Wedl of Eden Prairie, MN

10 comments | Vote/comment on this entry



Submit your own idea

Do you have an idea on how to fix the gap? Are the ideas you see not quite hitting the mark? Submit your own idea.

Want to comment on the Idea Generator?
Send your thoughts to publicinsight@mpr.org