St. Paul Public Schools

Recent Articles

SPPS super says battling the board not her style

Valeria Silva

St. Paul Public Schools [SPPS] has “evolved” since 2009, the year Valeria Silva was hired as its superintendent. “Have we made mistakes? Yes. Have we improved on the mistakes we made? Absolutely,” says Silva, who adds that SPPS must keep pace with a city that has “gone through the largest transformation in 25 years.” Continue Reading →

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Some class sizes reduced in new St. Paul teachers’ contract

Trust an ongoing issue between teachers, district
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

 

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) and St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) both cite “seven community-developed priorities” in the three-year “landmark contract” that was settled last month and approved earlier this month. These priorities include smaller classes and hiring more teachers and staff. Two key persons directly involved in the negotiations, SPFT President Mary Cathryn Ricker and SPPS Chief of Staff Michelle Walker, last week spoke to the MSR in separate interviews. Continue Reading →

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Race discrimination persists in school discipline practices

By Mary Turck

Contributing Writer

 

In early January, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder jointly announced new federal guidelines on school discipline. Why? “Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today, and not just an issue from 40 to 50 years ago,” said Duncan. Want numbers? The new guidelines have plenty:

“The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), conducted by OCR, has demonstrated that students of certain racial or ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more than their peers. Continue Reading →

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St. Paul Public Schools invests over $1 million in California-based equity training — Evidence of reduced Black suspensions still inconclusive

 

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) in 2010 began a five-year training plan to improve racial equity “at all levels” of the district. This year, the SPPS board voted five-to-one July 16 to approve a new racial equity policy. According to the revised draft posted on the SPPS website, the new policy’s purpose is “eliminating our district’s institutional racism, [which] will increase achievement…for all students, while narrowing the gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students.” It also states that SPPS will “invite and include people from all races and ethnicities to examine issues and find adaptive solutions [and] eliminate practices that result in predictably lower academic achievement for any student racial group.”

SPPS Board Member Keith Hardy, who made the motion to adopt the new policy and voted for it, told the MSR that a subcommittee has been working on it since this past spring. He added that he wanted to “make sure that the policy had the right language to address what we really need to address, the eradication of institutional racism…and that we had a policy that will drive procedures and accountability measures that will be specific.”

“I believe we are the second district to pass such a policy in Minnesota. Continue Reading →

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Courageous Conversations program confronts systemic racism in education

 
Acknowledging that ‘race matters’ is a first step in reducing Black suspensions
 

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

In the recent MSR six-part series on Black suspensions, several school districts — including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and several other Twin Cities area schools — indicated that they are using the Courageous Conversations program in helping to lower their suspension rates. To learn more about this program, we contacted San Francisco-based Pacific Educational Group (PEG) Founder and CEO Glenn Singleton, who recently spoke with us in an extended phone interview. “My team is excited about the work that is going on in the Twin Cities,” Singleton said. He founded PEG in 1992 and has authored two books: Courageous Conversations About Race (2006) and More Courageous Conversations About Race (2013). Continue Reading →

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How best reduce school suspensions? – Teacher argues the answer is not ignoring classroom misbehavior

 

 

By Charles Hallman 

Staff Writer

 

St. Paul Public Schools’ (SPPS) Black suspension rate dropped only two percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12. Black students there still receive nearly 70 percent of all suspensions. SPPS Chief of Staff Michelle Walker told the MSR that Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and “Courageous Conversations” strategies, used to help teachers respond more positively to student behaviors — especially those of Black students — has played a huge role in the decline in suspensions. “Suspensions as a [disciplinary] strategy doesn’t work,” she points out. 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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Youth-focused Black History Month celebration planned

Black parents also encouraged to participate
 

By Youthprise Staff

Contributing Writers

 

“Renewing Hope in the Promise of Minnesota’s Youth” is an opportunity to commemorate Black History Month with a series of events on February 26-27 that embrace the insight, resourcefulness and energy of today’s youth, while also tapping into the strengths of African American culture and history. The organizers plan to bring people together across cultural and generational lines to collectively address how African American cultural strengths and lessons from history can be used to address disparities in opportunities and outcomes for under-engaged youth. Planned, orchestrated, and led by youth in partnership with adults, the Black History Month Celebration will include multimedia presentations, artistic expressions, public speaking, and facilitation by local youth in an effort to showcase the diverse skills, talents, and qualities that are being taught and strengthened through local out-of-school time programs.

Dr. Joseph L. White, Ph.D., pioneer in the field of Black psychology, perennial voice for youth empowerment, and strong advocate for leadership development among Black and Latino youth will be a featured guest

throughout the two-day celebration. His keynote presentation, remarks, and facilitated dialogues over the course of the two days are titled “Discovering, Rediscovering and Utilizing the Strengths of the Past to Take Control of Our Destiny as African American Youth in the 21st Century.”

Recent research shows that engaging young people in pursuits that affirm racial pride and promote positive connections to their culture can have a positive impact on academic performance. On that account, teaching youth positive messages about their culture and history can play a fundamental role in laying the foundation for their future success. Continue Reading →

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