Schools notebook

Teach for America considers Minneapolis

A national organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach in public schools was considering expansion to Minneapolis in October.

Teach for America selected the Twin Cities as one of five regions across the country where it may expand its program in the 2009–2010 school year. The other finalists were Dallas, Boston, Milwaukee and Nashville.

Teach for America will make its selection by about mid-November.

Spokeswoman Kerci Stroud said Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) agreed to place 10–15 members of Teach for America in its schools next fall. The organization was working on agreements with Brooklyn Park schools and Twin Cities charter schools to place up to 40 teachers, total, in the region, Stroud added.

Founded in 1990, Teach for America places college graduates from diverse academic backgrounds into low-income rural and urban communities, where they agree to teach for two years. The organization has about 6,200 members of its teacher corps working in 29 regions across the country this school year.

The more than 14,000 Teach for America alumni include Mike
Spangenberg, school leader of the new Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, academy that opened Downtown this summer.

Windom teacher awarded $1,000

WINDOM — A Windom Spanish Dual Immersion and Open School teacher was one of seven Minneapolis Public Schools teachers awarded $1,000 in classroom supplies in October.

Fifth-grade teacher Jessica Perez was one of nearly 1,300 teachers across the country selected to receive an award through the OfficeMax “A Day Made Better” program. The winners were revealed in surprise school visits Oct. 1.

Each teacher received basic classroom supplies like pens, pencils and notepads, as well as a new desk chair and a digital camera for use in the classroom.

The office supply company paired with Adopt-A-Classroom, a national organization that facilitates fundraising for teachers, to select mainly teachers from Title I schools to receive $1.5 million in supplies. Title I schools serve a significant number of students from low-income families.

OfficeMax reported that teachers spend nearly $1,200 of their own money every year to buy school supplies for their classrooms, according to a 2005 National Education Association survey.

Girl Scouts collecting used books

FULTON — Girls Scouts from Lake Harriet Upper School are collecting used books and magazines through Thursday, Nov. 6 for children living at People Serving People. The scouts of Troop 10443 were looking for “gently used” children’s books, comic books and current magazines for both children and adults. Donations can be dropped off in the school offices at the Lake Harriet Upper Campus, 4912 Vincent Ave. S., or Lower Campus, 4030 Chowen Ave. S.

The girls in Troop 10443 are 6th-graders from Southwest Minneapolis and mainly attend Lake Harriet.

People Serving People is a Minneapolis nonprofit organization that provides emergency housing and other services to children and families. The majority of residents in its Downtown shelter are younger than 18 years old.

Area C parents meeting Oct. 23

TANGLETOWN — Representatives to the District Parent Advisory Council [DPAC] will be elected at the Area C Parent Advisory Council meeting Oct. 23 at Washburn High School, 201 W. 49th St.

Council meetings are held monthly and are open to all parents from Area C, a region that includes all Southwest-area public schools. DPAC includes parent representatives from the district’s other two regions, A and B, and is a body that meets regularly with district staff and the superintendent to advise on school issues.

Also on the agenda for the Area C parent meeting is a discussion of class sizes led by Associate Superintendent Marianne Norris, a report from current DPAC representatives and a discussion of the schools issues on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot.

Schools notebook

School board forum Oct. 16

A second chance to hear from contenders for the Minneapolis Board of Education comes Oct. 16 when the six remaining candidates gather at a North Side school.

The candidates’ forum, sponsored by the Cleveland Neighborhood Association and moderated by the League of Women Voters, will be 7–9 p.m. at Lucy Craft Laney school, 3333 Penn Ave. N.

From a field of nine candidates, six made it through the primary election and continue to vie for three open school board seats. They are: Carla Bates, Jill Davis, Sharon Henry-Blythe (incumbent), Lydia Lee (incumbent), Doug Mann and Kari Reed.

Lee, Davis and Bates were the top three finishers, respectively, in the Sept. 9 primary election. All three were endorsed by the DFL.

Reed received the GOP endorsement.

School board members are elected at-large and serve two-year terms. Election Day is Nov. 4.

MPS students semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships

Good grades and high SAT scores earned 14 Minneapolis Public Schools students a place among the approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 2009 National Merit Scholarship competition.

Finalists in the 54th annual competition, to be announced next spring, each earn a $2,500 college scholarship.

The Minneapolis semifinalists include: Southwest High School students Patrick Budde, Eli Kamin, Alexia Klatt, Erik Larson, Nathaniel Pasmanter and Colin Quinn; South High School students Maars Beltrand y Rudquist, Molly Hensley-Clancy, Patricia Mullaney-Loss, Margaret Nichols, Graham Smith, Laurel Starr and Linnea Yeazel; and Patrick Henry High School student Lucia Carver.

Students are entered in the competition based on high scores on the Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, usually taken as juniors. They progress through the competition based on grades, SAT scores, school recommendations and other factors.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is a nonprofit established in 1955 to administer the program.

Board supports IB expansion

A major expansion of the International Baccalaureate [IB] program in the city’s high schools received the official support of the Minneapolis school board.

A resolution approved Sept. 23 supported bids by Washburn, Edison, North and Roosevelt high schools to become official IB sites. Southwest and Patrick Henry high schools, which already offer the IB Diploma Programme for 11th and 12th graders, received support to expand their programs to the 9th and 10th grades.

The resolution cited the “strong demand for the IB” among district families and the program’s “proven effectiveness.”

The rigorous IB curriculum is taught in more than 2,400 schools in 129 countries. The program is overseen by the International Baccalaureate Organization, a nonprofit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland and founded in 1968 to create a high-quality educational program for international students.

Expansion of the IB program in Minneapolis was one part of a larger high school redesign plan initiated last school year. The plan aims to raise student performance and close the achievement gap between black students and white students at all seven of the city’s high schools.

Washburn, Edison, North and Roosevelt all have begun the two-year application process to become official IB Diploma Programme sites.

In addition to its Diploma Programme, IB also offers a Middle Years Programme and a Primary Years Programme. In Southwest, Whittier International Elementary School offers the Primary Years Programme and Anwatin Middle School offers the Middle Years Programme.

The Middle Years Programme curriculum is designed for grades 6–10, but previously had been offered only in grades 6–8 in Minneapolis, Chief Academic Officer Bernadeia Johnson said.

“What we’re saying is we’d like to expand that to 9th and 10th grade, and then also put it into the two schools that have had the Diploma Programme the longest, which is Patrick Henry and also Southwest high schools,” Johnson told the board.

The district would wait to expand the program at Washburn and the other three high schools just now applying to the International Baccalaureate Organization, she said.

“Those other schools are just starting their Diploma Programme, and we thought it would be too much to have them do the Middle Years [Programme] authorization as well as the diploma program,” Johnson said.

Read for the Record event promotes childhood literacy

Minneapolis Public Schools students were among those attempting to set a world record Oct. 2 for the largest-ever shared reading experience.

The nation-wide event was a part of this year’s Read for the Record campaign sponsored by education nonprofit Jumpstart. The campaign aims to bring attention to the importance of early childhood literacy skills.

Students in Minneapolis kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms joined hundreds of thousands of young people and adults expected to read the campaign’s official book, “Corduroy,” on the same day.

The Pearson Foundation, a partner in the campaign and the nonprofit arm of Pearson plc, an international media company, underwrote the cost of distributing the book. Sales of the special edition of  “Corduroy” benefit Jumpstart.

Since 1993, Jumpstart has recruited college students to work in early childhood education programs serving children from low-income communities. Their focus on early childhood literacy is intended to help prepare young children for learning when they enter kindergarten.