Archive for August, 2011

A Misleading Headline?

August 25, 2011

The Sun Post had an interesting headline in the August 25 edition;

ACT scores increase in Robbinsdale Dist. 281

However, the article doesn’t mention higher scores;

The percentage of high school students in Robbinsdale District 281 taking what the ACT labels as “core classes” increased from 83 percent in 2010 to 88 percent in 2011. In addition, the schools have increased participation in college preparation programs such as Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) and Admission Possible. Both programs support students who are determined to get to college. The ACT is a series of tests designed to specifically measure a student’s proficiency in skills needed for academic success in the first year of college. ACT has established benchmark scores, which is a minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher in college courses.

So did the percentage of students taking the ACT increase or did our scores increase?  We think there is a difference.  Now on a good note;

Both the 2011 District 281 and state composite scores remained the same as 2010, well above the national composite score of 21.1. Robbinsdale Area Schools’ composite score was 22.6.

So the headline of the article is that our ACT scores increases but here they say scores remained the same as 2010!  We’re also not sure a score of 21 out of a possible 36 is a great average but at least Robbinsdale is above that.

“Both high schools are working hard to increase participation in rigorous coursework because we know that rigorous coursework in high school leads to further success down the road,” Supt. Aldo Sicoli said. “We are excited to see that more students are participating in rigorous coursework, our ACT scores remain high, and our students are leaving our high schools with tools they need to excel in life.” The ACT is the primary college entrance exam taken by Minnesota students. In addition to being a predictor of academic success in the first year of college. The achievement test covers English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. It also has a writing test, which is optional.

Misleading headline anyone?

Opening Olson and Pilgrim Lane?

August 25, 2011

The Sun Post has an interesting article on the ongoing magnet school debate;

District 281 magnet program could be full STEAM ahead in 2012. A subcommittee studying possible future magnet schools and partnerships in District 281 has set its top priority as a STEAM magnet at the Olson School site in Golden Valley. STEAM is an enhanced version of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) magnet program with arts added.

The Robbinsdale District 281 School Board received an update on the subcommittee’s priorities at an Aug. 8 work session.

“STEAM was talked about because our district has a long-standing tradition with the arts and wanting to educate the whole child,” said Lori Simon, District 281’s executive director of educational services. The addition of arts, she said, “might make our program more unique in the metro area. It would create more choice for families.”

And of course “choice” is just wonderful as long as District 281 provides it.

The subcommittee’s second priority is expanding the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School, possibly to the now-vacant Pilgrim Lane School site in Plymouth, Simon said.

A second magnet?  Didn’t we just close Pilgrim Lane?

The School Board would have to vote on a magnet school expansion by November, if a new program was to be offered in the fall of 2012.

And what do you want to bet that the vote is 7-0!

If there is sufficient demand, STEAM could be added in existing schools, but transportation would not be provided outside the attendance areas of those schools, the subcommittee said. The subcommittee, which met 29 times beginning in May 2010, was charged with determining ways to enhance the district’s revenue, either by increasing enrollment or slowing the trend of declining enrollment, Simon said.

Although the subcommittee was not charged with producing recommendations, it wanted the School Board to know that one option was preferable, Supt. Aldo Sicoli said. “The committee thought it would add a little uniqueness compared to other STEM schools,” Sicoli said. “We’re talking about additional non-resident students throughout the district.”

Boardmember Patsy Green said she is an advocate for STEAM. “A lot of technology is art-related, and this seemed like a natural fit,” Green said. “I have no fear at all that we won’t fill those seats.” Tia Clasen, District 281’s program director for communications and marketing, said, “The emphasis on creative thinking lends itself to every area.” Any magnet expansion program would be aimed at stemming the numbers of students who leave District 281 if they are not chosen by lottery to attend the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion program. Over four years, an average of 49 percent of the students who are not chosen leave the district, Simon said.

Simon said!  Simon said! What the article doesn’t mention is that a percentage of students who don’t live here will get first priority.  Think about it; if someone what to go to the STEM or STEAM program and a kid from another district gets in ahead of them is that going to make them want to stay in the district?  Let’s see what else Simon says;

Regarding the location for a new magnet program, data on the district’s two vacant elementary buildings – Olson in Golden Valley and Pilgrim Lane in Plymouth – indicate that “Olson is pretty much ready to move into right away,” Simon said. “Pilgrim Lane would need a pretty substantial investment right up front,” she said. “Gaining approval from the Minnesota Department of Education for deferred maintenance projects at Pilgrim Lane could be difficult.”

Investment?  You mean spending! MDE approval could be difficult? Yes and it should be since this is a school we just closed and don’t “need.”  How about the approval of the voters?

Even if the Department of Education granted approval, Simon said, the building wouldn’t be ready for 2012-13. “We can only expand one magnet now, and the only place to go is Olson,” Boardmember Tom Walsh said.

Sounds like everyone is all for this.  We can only do one now but later…..

As part of its study, the subcommittee earlier reviewed Spanish immersion lottery trend data, studied survey information from families who go elsewhere to school, developed a list of magnet school concepts to explore, looked at facilities analyses of the now-vacant Olson and Pilgrim Lane schools and examined financial considerations to determine the financial viability of a Spanish Immersion expansion or STEM.

An earlier analysis of the cost for needed capital improvements included for each school indicated that Pilgrim Lane has a larger site, more parking, a bigger building, more classrooms and larger average square footage in its classrooms. In almost every other major feature of the two facilities, however, Olson was shown to have newer equipment or operating systems. The bulk of Pilgrim Lane’s systems are original, including classroom ventilation, steam boiler and piping system, temperature control system, classroom ceiling tile system, gymnasium and media center lighting.

Consultants recommended replacement of Pilgrim Lane’s kitchen food prep station equipment and flooring, and the building’s ceiling system. The building’s classroom flooring is deemed “at the end of useful life range.” Analysis of the RSIS lottery trend date indicated that the total number of students not selected through the RSIS kindergarten lottery grew from 126 students in 2006-07 to 171 students in 2009-10. A total of 109 students were not selected for the current year.

The committee also earlier discussed expanding Spanish Immersion to Robbinsdale Middle School. Currently it is only offered at Plymouth Middle School. The proposal would eliminate district wide transportation of Spanish Immersion middle school students, saving between $65,000 and $90,000 a year. A District 281 divestiture committee studying surplus properties earlier recommended that Olson School in Golden Valley and Pilgrim Lane School in Plymouth be retained because they were most likely to be adapted for future use.

Though we would like to leave magnets to charter schools, we remain open to the possibility of a magnet.  They certainly offer new and different opportunities.  We were hoping that the “school within a school” option would be considered.  If the STEM program is so great, and 281 thinks everything they do is great, then why not give all of our students these opportunities rather then just those with a winning lottery ticket or to students who don’t live here.  Maybe that’s not feasible right now, who knows.

We are 100% against opening BOTH Pilgrim Lane and Olson especially considering how much money it will cost to renovate that school.  Voice your concern to the school board!

Robbinsdale Science Scores Drop

August 16, 2011

From the Golden Valley Patch;

Almost two-thirds of the Robbinsdale Public Schools students tested in science in March failed to meet state standards, according to data the Minnesota Department of Education released Friday. While state scores mainly remained flat from last year, most Robbinsdale schools saw a decrease in the number of proficient students over last year. The percentage of fifth-graders who were not proficient increased by more than 6 points over last year, from 62.1 percent to 68.5.

Only two elementary schools beat the state average of 54 percent not proficient: the Spanish Immersion School with 46.5 percent and Zachary with 45.9 percent. The Spanish Immersion also improved over last year’s percentage, from 47.3 not proficient. Meadow Lake Elementary improved its proficiency percentage by more than 3 percent over last year, to 75.3 percent. That was the biggest improvement any Robbinsdale school made over last year.

It “may not be statistically significant, but is definitely significant in the minds of students and staff,” said Tia Clasen, district spokeswoman, about Meadow Lake. She released a statement from the district Friday.

“Our school truly intensified its focus on the whole child,” said Meadow Lake Principal Kim Hiel. “For instance, each child in the entire school keeps a science journal, engages in inquiry throughout the day in all different subject areas, and practices thoughtful, reflective thinking. For our kids, it’s not just about ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ We focus on process.”

The elementary school with the fewest number of proficient students was Northport in Brooklyn Center, with 9.2 percent.  The percentage of students who were not proficient in science in Golden Valley’s Noble Elementary was 76.1 percent, a significant drop from last year’s 65.4 percent.

Both of Robbinsdale’s middle schools did worse than the state average of 55.6 percent, but one improved over last year. About 62.8 percent of Plymouth Middle School students were not proficient this year, which is an 8 percent improvement over last year’s 70.8 percent.

The percentage of Robbinsdale Middle School students who did not pass the science test increased from 61.9 percent last year to 70.5 this year. Armstrong beat the state average of 46.2 percent, with 44.8 percent not proficient this year. Cooper’s scores, however, were significantly worse than the state average, at 63.9 percent not proficient.

Cooper improved, however, by about 3 percentage points over last year, while Armstrong dropped by more than a percentage point. “We are carefully examining our students’ growth as they move through our schools,” said Superintendent Aldo Sicoli in the news release. “We will not accept this drop overall in our schools. It is unacceptable and disheartening, but it will not derail the recent work we have accomplished and will continue to implement this coming year.”

Sicoli said the district has a lot of work to do. “Are we there yet? No, we are not,” he said. “However, we have, and will continue to have, the steadfast persistence in working with students so they will attain high intellectual performance. Our students have many strengths and talents. It is up to us to tap into those talents in order to foster learning and achieve academic success.”

District 281 Launches Facebook Page

August 11, 2011

Once again from the Sun Post;

Robbinsdale Area Schools has launched a district Facebook page.

The district’s “Discover” newsletter can be directly uploaded onto a person’s Facebook page, it can be tweeted, or it can be posted on a person’s Linked In account. Icons at the top of the e-newsletter will provide those services. “We are constantly thinking of ways to communicate more effectively with families,” said Tia Clasen, District 281’s program director for marketing and communications.

“Our district recently conducted an online survey asking families how the district could be more effective in its communications to them, and social media ranked very prominently,” Clasen said. “We built a user-friendly Facebook page that doesn’t only have news and information, but good resources for families, and links to other pages in the district and the community. More timely communication with families is continuing to prove itself as an influential factor in raising student achievement.”

To view the Robbinsdale Area Schools Facebook page, go to

Everyone go there and click “like!”

Unions Can’t Buy Wisconsin

August 11, 2011

Story from the Hill newspaper;

Democrats picked off seats held by two Wisconsin state senators Tuesday night but failed to capture control of the chamber from Republicans.  Democrats needed to win three of the six seats where Republicans had faced recall elections Tuesday. Republicans held on to four of the seats.

The close results suggest that while the fight over public employee union rights helped energize the Democratic base, Republicans remain motivated after their 2010 wave election. Turnout was unusually high for both parties, especially for a down-ballot, mid-summer election.  Wisconsin could host some important campaigns in 2012. Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl’s retirement means his seat will likely be in play, and President Obama will probably need to hold the Badger State to win reelection. Democrats also hope they can win one or two House seats in the state; they need to win a net of 24 seats to retake control of the House.The fight over public workers’ right to organize into unions will likely continue to be a major issue through next year’s elections in the state, especially if Democrats push to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Recall the governor?  Can’t these union thugs accept election results?  Earth to Union apologizing Democrats; you lost the election in 2010 and you lost the recall election.  The public doesn’t want to just throw money at problems.  The current system is NOT sustainable!  And there is a lesson for Republicans as well; stay strong and trust in the people who voted for you.  Don’t listen to the unions and the liberals in the so-called mainstream media.

Full story is here;