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Students waiting for change deserve thoughtful reasons for sticking with MPS’ current plan

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Senate Minority Leader David Hann has issued a challenge.

I am a bit confused how a suggestion to split Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) into six smaller districts would receive a kneejerk response of no or yes without taking a moment to critically think through the conditions that have contributed to the current realities of our district. This is not to say that I agree with the state senator who brought forth the proposal [Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie], because I do not. Equally important, it is not to say that I agree with district leadership’s position either.

Tracine D. Asberry

As a former MPS teacher, current parent and MPS School Board director, my commitment is to the 35,000 plus students who are counting on the board and district leadership to make the mission of “every child college and career ready” a reality. The stark truth is that many children have been on the readiness trajectory and from this group some no longer need to entertain the pressures of test scores and adjustments in educational policy. There are certain MPS students who have their futures designed, manicured, and protected; their fate is set.

Others left waiting

Other students, however, equally brilliant, equally beautiful, are left waiting for their MPS educational experience to Shift. These students deserve a thoughtful, holistic response, supported by evidence, as to why they should believe in the current district plan, when the plan generates skepticism.

Let me be clear. I can state undoubtedly that district leadership is committed to the academic education of the city’s children. I can say that district leadership works diligently to be the first choice for Minneapolis families and to bring families who have left the district back home. Still, with these good intentions, gaps persist, urgency is fickle, and clarity surrounding districtwide excellence and equity is inconsistent.

Addressing the disproportionate educational conditions of our students should be a top priority for every level of government. However, the responses from the senator and district leadership are missing the characteristics described as SMART Goals: Specific (Goals must be clear and unambiguous); Measurable (Results must be able to be measured in some way, for example, the number of products sold each week, or the percent completion); Attainable (Goals must be realistic and attainable by the average employee); Relevant (Goals must relate to your organization’s vision and mission); Time-bound (Goals must have definite starting and ending points, and a fixed duration).

Challenge has been issued

We have seen — with the special education audit, Partnership with Early Learning with the University of Minnesota, Office of Black Male Achievement, English Language Learners funding and Foundational Programming — that district leadership can respond in thoughtful ways that are relevant. However, even these specific topics required families to wait far too long for a timely and respectful response, and these initiatives still require specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound goals.

The senator has spoken. The challenge has been called. It is time for district leadership to deliver a plan — and, equally important, deliver the outcomes and experiences that our students deserve. The fate of our district depends on it.

Tracine Asberry, Ed.D., is a member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board.

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If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 03/10/2015 - 06:16 pm.

    If a GOP legislator throws out an idea on a possible fix for a real problem with education in Mpls Public Schools, he gets ripped by liberals. Splitting up the district into 6 smaller districts is an interesting idea. The budget for 2012-13 Mpls Public School district was $742,700,845 to service 23,020 students, I’m sure that the 3/4 of a billion could be spread across 6 districts. Hann’s proposal may not be the best but at least it is a start to bringing parents and families closer to their child’s education.

    • Submitted by Anita Newhouse on 03/10/2015 - 09:27 pm.

      Correct figures?

      MPS enrollment is almost 33,000 this year, not 23,000. Where did you get your number? The most popular schools in MPS and MN are larger and thus have more advanced programming (AP, CIS, Honors, IB, etc.). Part of the problem with rural and smaller districts is that they have too few students and thus funds, to be able to provide advanced programming with a higher level of rigor. Senator Hann should certainly know this and therefore, his proposal to break MPS into multiple smaller districts is at the least disingenuous. Smaller school districts would be much less competitive and more segregaged than ever.
      MPS has a very high per student allotment of funds because they differ from districts other than St. Paul, in important ways:
      MPS / MN
      Students receiving free and reduced lunch/ 65%/ 37%
      Special education students/ 18%/ 15%
      English language learner/ 23%/ 8%

      source: MPS 2012-13 Budget

  2. Submitted by Mike martin on 03/10/2015 - 07:40 pm.

    spliting MSP

    While splitting Mpls.School District into 6 parts as Rep Hahn of EP suggested is too many,

    I believe that that MSP would benefit by examining the Pros & Cons of splitting into 2-4 areas

    2areas: SW Mpls. and everything else; 3 area SW Mpls., NW(north)Mpls and east side of Mpls.; or 4 (easch of the 4 corners)

    Separating out SW Mpls. would make a lot of people happy. The people that live there would be happy they don’t have to deal with the rest of the City. The rest of the City would not have to worry about SW hogging all the money resources/money.

    Separating out SW & NW/North would separate out the best & worst (not in terms of worst students, but in terms of students achieving their potential) So the details about achievement would not get buried by the averages.

    • Submitted by Mary Dolan on 03/12/2015 - 11:21 am.

      SW hogging funding?

      Please provide data for SW hogging funding, because although I do not remember the exact dollar figures, SW students receive a significantly smaller per student distribution than students in the rest of the district. Student Weighted Funding will ensure this continues. We fight for funding to ensure the safety of our children, like when funding for a nurse, crossing guards, recess staff, social worker, and office personnel were cut from our budget this year. But, to my knowledge, have never fought for equal funding, much less a greater portion, because we understand there is a need for higher levels of funding at schools with lower academic achievement. I do understand our teacher salaries are higher, but I believe that is a district issue parents can’t do anything about. I am offended by the way SW parents are portrayed.

      Tracine, before the district works on tying to retain families or get back families who have left, you might want to ask some of them why they left. Of the many families I personally know who have left, none of them were questioned by the district.

      I believe by dividing the district, families will be more involved in the process and what happens in their school. Many suburban schools are doing this with success.

    • Submitted by Gwen Spurgat on 03/12/2015 - 11:53 am.

      some of the budget details

      MPS (and Minnesota in general) do weight funding by student need already. I fear that dividing the district will not only further segregate schools, but will also potentially cause funding in high-need areas to be reduced.

      Here is per pupil school allocation data derived from the District Budget 2014-2015 using high schools in MPS only as an example of funding. http://financeandbudget.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/school_allocation_model_spreadsheet_14-15.pdf

      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . per student . . . per student w/o special ed teacher funding
      EDISON . . . . . . . . $ 10,946 . . . . . .$ 8,519
      HENRY . . . . . . . . . $ 8,555 . . . . . . $ 7,369
      NORTH . . . . . . . . . $ 14,941 . . . . . $ 14,446
      NRTH ACAD . . . . $ 12,994 . . . . . $ 10,509
      ROOSEVELT . . . . $ 9,892 . . . . . . $ 8,542
      SOUTH . . . . . . . . . $ 6,862 . . . . . . $ 5,799
      SOUTHWEST . . . . $ 5,978 . . . . . . $ 5,246
      WASHBURN . . . . . $ 6,847 . . . . . . $ 5,546
      WELLSTONE . . . .. $ 7,950 . . . . . . $ 7,928

      per student is the total allocation to school divided by enrollment
      per student without special ed teacher funding is (total allocation less funds for SERTs, Special Ed City Wide and Special Ed Federal) divided by enrollment

      *This does not include our Special Education sites, Contract Alternative sites (like Stadium View, Broadway) or Hospital sites which are all high per student allocations.

  3. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/11/2015 - 10:41 am.

    Assumptions

    Why do you assume that anyone who opposes this plan is having a knee jerk reaction? You oppose the plan – is your opposition more thought out than everyone else’s?

    You also assume that because people don’t support some half-baked plan, that they support the status quo.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2015 - 11:52 am.

    Yeah, I’m sorry but…

    This is one of the worse pieces of writing I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve read it twice and from the title to the conclusion don’t see an actual point. The only clear statement I think I see is that MPLS students deserve a plan of some kind… Oh, and it should be a good plan that will work.This is a mundane observation. What that plan is, or how it differs from Hann’s, is nowhere to be found.

    I think we all deserve a better explanation than this.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but in all fairness we criticized Hann’s plan, and other MPLS initiatives so…

  5. Submitted by Gary Davison on 03/12/2015 - 05:15 pm.

    Promising initiatives of the Minneapolis Public Schools

    Tracine Asberry is hands-down the best District Member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education. For a half-year now I have positioned myself right up front on the occasion of each regular meeting of the Minneapolis school board, second Tuesday of every month, making comments at the time designated for the public to do so. Bernadeia Johnson left behind quite a legacy in superintending the programs of Focused Instruction, High Priority Schools, and Shift. What district officials and the school board now need to do is to follow through on those programs. Readers wanting to know more can go to my New Salem Education blog or watch my new television show (“The K-12 Revolution with Dr. Gary Marvin Davison”) on Channel 17 every Wednesday at 6:00 PM.

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