Minneapolis Public Schools

Recent Articles

MPS Black student suspensions twice state average

 

 

The district aims for more consistent discipline among schools, teachers
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

According to Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) data from the last two school years, the suspension rates of Black students in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) are twice that of Black students suspended statewide. Additionally, more Black students were suspended in 2011-12 (4,336) than in 2010-11 (4,305). However, a Minneapolis teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity believes that the district suspension numbers at some schools are “deliberately manipulated. “They will have an all-out bloody fight between a first grader and a third grader, and [school officials] don’t want the kids suspended,” observed the teacher. “What I’m seeing is there is no black-or-white spelled-out policy for infractions that leads to suspensions. Continue Reading →

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Hiring, retaining more teachers of color urged by MPS superintendent

 

 
Some see ‘bold leadership’ in her proposals prior to union negotiations

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent Dr. Bernadeia Johnson is asking the community to support her new district priorities that “will be a significant, real and challenging shift for our schools and students.”

A key component of this shift that Johnson impassionedly unveiled May 13 at Hennepin Country Central Library in downtown Minneapolis is establishing “an innovative partnership zone.”

“Schools will own critical decisions, like hiring the people that best match the needs of students,” explained Johnson, who noted that separate contracts will be arranged with the teachers at these schools, which the district will identify during the 2013-14 school year and begin implementing in 2014-15. Other key components include:

• Recruiting and hiring more Black teachers and other teachers of color: “Our youth must see themselves reflected in the adults who are working with them on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “We need more quality teachers and staff members who look like the students they serve.”

• Extending the school day, and partnering with local businesses and community groups “for extended and wrap-around services… We want our schools to become community hubs that are open to learners of all ages and whose lives call for educational opportunities beyond the school day…” stated Johnson. Northside Achievement Zone head Sondra Samuels and Harvest Prep School President Eric Mahmoud were among the estimated 250 persons who attended the May 13 invitation-only meeting. Both spoke approvingly of Johnson’s plans after the presentation. Continue Reading →

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Suburban Black student suspensions show little improvement in 2010-12

 
In some cases, the disproportionately high rates are growing worse
 
 

 

Second in a series
 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

In last week’s edition, the MSR reviewed 2009 suspension data from several suburban schools showing, as the story headline stated, that “Black suspensions [are] more than double other students’ in suburban schools.” The MSR also reviewed the 2010-11 and 2011-12 discipline data from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to determine if schools have improved since 2009. According to the most recently available MDE data, the extremely disproportionate Black student suspension rates in several Minneapolis suburban schools have not significantly improved over the course of the last two school years, and in several cases have grown considerably worse, despite statements from many districts that they have programs in place to reduce the rates. The MSR examined MDE disciplinary action counts from 13 school districts. Following are specifics from four districts.  

Hopkins

Fifty-seven percent of 2010-12 suspensions (580 of 1,010) in Hopkins junior high and high schools were Black students, an 11 percent increase from 2009. Continue Reading →

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Does Minnesota need a ‘13th’ grade?

 

 

By Donald Allen

Contributing Writer

 

The Minnesota House of Representatives have enacted a bill attempting to establish a “13th” grade pilot project based in north Minneapolis. The bill, H.F. 1149 is part of an education and employability solution for young adults who are unemployed, underemployed and not enrolled in postsecondary education. Co-authored by Senators Jeff Hayden (D-SD 62), Bobby Joe Champion (D-SD 59), Representatives Ray Dehn (D-HD 59B) and Will Morgan (D-SD 56B), the bill is said to potentially impact over 3,000 young adults ages 18-26, placing them on college and career pathways by 2015. It states the commissioner of education shall develop a one-year 13th-grade pilot project, with one site being operated by the Minneapolis Urban League. The “13th” grade proposal is problematic because a one-year pilot program is expected to eradicate generations of educational failures in poor minority communities and the parties involved seem not to understand Minnesota’s employability issues and current status of K-12 education [if any] in the Minneapolis and St. Continue Reading →

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Northside hoops league starts teaching the game young

 

 

 

 

While the NBA and NHL playoffs are well underway, the NABA is winding down its regular season. The North Area Basketball Association (NABA) has been playing Saturday morning games at North High School since late March. The spring league features up to 90 boys and girls in grades K-4, learning how to play the game the right way. “I learned how to shoot a left hand lay-up and how to dribble,” said eight-year-old Elisiah Robinson. However, his mother, Vanessa Petty, says her son is a regular participant because of the socialization skills he’s learning as well. Continue Reading →

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Minneapolis Public Schools brings on new head of athletics

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The Minneapolis City Conference once was considered the jewel of high school conferences around the state.  Unfortunately, various factors over the years have contributed to its slowly decreasing luster. The new MPS athletic director would like to bring that lost luster back. “Once the job was open and I went through the formal application process and the interviews, I just felt like being a part of an athletic structure like this would be a right place to be,” said new Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Athletic Director Trent Tucker. He succeeds John Washington, who retired last fall. MPS has “a rich tradition,” Tucker said in a recent interview with the MSR. “There are so many things that are positive. Continue Reading →

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We must produce the schools Minneapolis needs

 

 

By Bernadeia H. Johnson, Ed.D.

Guest Commentator

 

Our world has been changing at a pace that most of us struggle to comprehend. It is full of products and services that simply did not exist a few years ago. We now engage one another through video calls and instant messages and social media. We shop from our laptop and bank through our smart phone. We expect the information we want to be available when we want it. Continue Reading →

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Black Minnesotans lobby at the State Capitol

 
Can the new ‘Black agenda’ move the community forward? 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

There was nothing new revealed last week during the Council on Black Minnesotans (COBM) Lobby Day at the State Capitol presenting their Black agenda to this year’s Minnesota Legislature. Billed as “Black Minnesotans Helping Move Minnesota Forward,” around 50 people listened on March 19 at the Capitol Rotunda to over 20 scheduled speakers before many of them visited legislators’ offices. “The last two years there was a collective group that sat on this African American lobby day, and this place was filled,” noted Rev. Jerry McAfee, who added that the COBM “didn’t reach out to anybody else. If this is about Black Minnesotans, why are you leaving Black folk out?”

Although McAfee didn’t blame the council’s new executive director, Edward McDonald, for the seemingly solo effort in planning last week’s event, the longtime pastor nonetheless added, “Some of the people around him on the council knew about it, and they should’ve said, ‘We will be stronger if we put everybody in together.’”

McDonald was hired and assumed the COBM executive duties last October. “Whether we like them [organizations that represent Blacks] or don’t like them, every African American group should have been a part of this, and there should have been meetings prior to this so that there could [be] one agenda. Continue Reading →

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Way to Grow shows one way to close the achievement gap

Intensive home program supports students and their families
 

 

News Analysis

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

Way to Grow Executive Director Carolyn Smallwood is passionate about the community empowerment institution. Sitting in a South Minneapolis coffee shop, she animatedly attests, “I have been blessed over the past eight years to be affiliated with such a great organization. It’s an honor. We have great staff. We’ve made a

significant impact in the community. Continue Reading →

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MPS revising Black history curriculum

 

Mahmoud El-Kati calls for a ‘radical’ change to educating youth
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

 

Following two recent incidents that occurred at Minneapolis high schools — a Black doll hung by the neck from a string at Washburn High School and a cafeteria fight at South High School — Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Chief Communications Officer Stan Alleyne said, “There is a new level of intensity and urgency” around the importance of teaching Black history in the schools,

The two incidents are “about misunderstandings and about ignorance” of Black culture, said Mahmoud El-Kati, who has taught Black history classes at North High School for 18 years. “All children should learn the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, [W.E.B.] DuBois, Mary Church Terrill, Ida B. Wells and Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin [Luther King, Jr.] and Malcolm [X], and God knows how many [other] people we can call on who are very important in American democracy. These children haven’t heard their names, [as well as] too many adults.”

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson was unavailable for comment, but Alleyne pointed out, “The superintendent has spoken numerous times on how important it was to take another look at what we are doing. We have to make sure that students are learning things that are important for them to learn.”

The current Minnesota K-12 Social Studies Standards has four key components: citizenship and government, geography, economics and history. Students in kindergarten through third grade are required “to master fundamental understandings” of social studies, then study North America geography (grade four), North American history (grade five), Minnesota studies (grade six), U.S. Studies 1800-present (grade seven) and global studies (grade eight). Continue Reading →

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