Archive for September, 2011

Test Scores are Out

September 26, 2011

Here is a link to the breakdown of test results in math and reading;

http://ww3.startribune.com/projects/no_child/school.php?dst_num=0281&dst_type=01&dst=metpu

Overall the numbers break down like this;

Math test state average; 57% Robbinsdale; 44%

Reading test state average; 75% Robbinsdale; 65%

We are aware that there is a new and tougher math test this year so that may account for the lower scores statewide and in Robbinsdale.

Here is the like to all test scores including charter schools;

http://ww3.startribune.com/projects/no_child/district.php?dst=metpu

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Kids Like Choice

September 24, 2011

From the Sun Post;

Most Choice Is Yours students like their District 281 schools

A survey of Choice Is Yours students from Minneapolis who are open-enrolled in Robbinsdale Area Schools indicates that most of the low-income students are happy with what they have found in the suburban education setting. The survey was conducted by an outside agency in May 2011 for 235 District 281 Choice Is Yours students in grades 7-12. District 281 has a total of 515 Choice Is Yours students enrolled in grades K-12.

Lori Simon, District 281’s executive director of educational services, and Kenneth Turner, the district’s program director for integration and equity, presented an overview of the survey results at a school board meeting Sept. 6. Seventy-two percent of the respondents said they had input into the decision to transfer to District 281, and 84 percent said they are learning more at their District 281 school than they did at their previous school in Minneapolis.

The survey indicated that 79 percent of the students would not choose to attend a school closer to home, and that 87 percent feel they can participate in any school activity they choose. But more than half – 59 percent – said they would not attend the District 281 school if bus transportation were not provided.

Nearly all – 97 percent – said they have made good friends at the school they attend.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents said they are satisfied with the academic support they receive. Forty-one percent said they believe they need more academic support, but only 23 percent participate in a school tutoring or support program. However, 82 percent said they know who to contact if they need academic support, and 79 percent said they know who to go to with questions about the school or its programs.

Here’s how the students responded to six other questions:

– Are you happy with your current school? 68 percent said all or most of the time, 24 percent said some of the time, 6 percent said hardly ever, and 2 percent said never.

– Do the teachers and staff make you feel welcome? 76 percent said all or most of the time, 19 percent said some of the time, 3 percent said hardly ever, and 1 percent said never.

– Do you feel welcomed by the students? 76 percent said all or most of the time, 20 percent said some of the time, 2 percent said hardly ever and 3 percent said never.

– Do you feel that you are a part of the school community? 72 percent said all or most of the time, 18 percent said some of the time, 6 percent said hardly ever and 3 percent said never.

– Do you feel safe on the bus that brings you to school? 91 percent said all or most of the time, 6 percent said some of the time, 2 percent said hardly ever and 1 percent said never.

– Are you performing well academically at this school? 72 percent said all or most of the time, 22 percent said some of the time, 5 percent said hardly ever and 1 percent said never.

– Do your teachers provide the support you need to succeed academically? 81 percent said all or most of the time, 16 percent said some of the time, 3 percent said hardly ever and 1 percent said never.

Supt. Aldo Sicoli said the district receives some money for the Choice Is Yours students from a federal grant, and additional revenue from the state. “We will watch with a lot of interest to see what happens to integration revenue,” Sicoli said, noting that 59 percent of the Choice Is Yours students said they wouldn’t come to District 281 schools unless transportation was provided.

Boardmember Patsy Green asked Turner what the plans are to move the survey numbers “to the awesome range.” “We are doing community outreach and we’re being visible,” said Turner, who noted that he has participated in the Stop Violence movement in Minneapolis the last two years.

“We’re not recruiting, but we’re telling people, ‘Here’s what we do in our district,'” Turner said. Interest in District 281 continues, he said, and the outreach is augmented with the district’s use of social media. “People are calling us every day,” Turner said. “It’s great to have folks come into the district. We need to be sure that we keep students who start here.”

It’s funny how District 281 touts school choice…..when you choose them!

Now Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!

September 24, 2011

Isn’t this just great?

From the Star Tribune;

A healthier school lunch in Robbinsdale schools

Using a state health grant, Robbinsdale schools aimed to make salads appeal to kids of all ages. To their surprise, it’s actually worked. Kids at Northport Elementary School in Brooklyn Center are eating healthier foods like this salad with fruit and chicken. Last year, food service staffs were surprised when schools like Northport sold more than 500 salads a month. Fresh fruits and veggies are climbing up the list of favorite lunch foods for Robbinsdale school students. Over the past year, Robbinsdale school staff have learned how to sell kids of all ages on fresh fruits and vegetables by — to their own surprise — revamping the classic salad.

For a few years now, schools have been trading fried foods for more fresh fruits and vegetables, but the northwest suburban school district decided to take the trend a step further last year by serving up salads as an everyday entree option at every school. Students from first-graders to high school age have been so taken by the restaurant-inspired salads that they ate nearly 16,000 salads in the first seven months of the school year — double the rate of salads sold the year before.

“It was a nice surprise,” said Adele Lillie, Robbinsdale schools’ child nutrition director. “They’re trying different things and getting good nutrition.” The salad surge was spurred by a $68,000 grant from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), a two-year initiative to fight tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition in communities and schools across the state. The 12,000-student district used the money to fund new wellness initiatives, including revamping salads to increase the amount of vegetables and fruits students get in their school meals.

Copying restaurants

The district held taste-testing sessions with students and then launched the new salads last fall. To make the greens appeal to teens and younger kids alike, the school district took its cue from restaurants, nixing dull iceberg lettuce in favor of dark-green romaine.

This year the district’s kitchens are offering seven salads, including strawberry chicken, Mandarin orange chicken and Santa Fe salads, all served with controlled portions of dressing such as reduced-fat ranch or vinaigrette. It’s an appealing way, Lillie said, to get students to eat more vegetables, fruits and beans — all expected requirements of new federal nutrition guidelines set to be released early next year.

With those guidelines on the way, schools across the state are ramping up their use of fresh produce from local farms. Farm-to-school programs in the state have spread from 10 school districts in 2006 to 123 school districts — or more than 800 schools — last year. To decrease sodium and fat content, schools like Robbinsdale are making more meals from scratch and nixing processed foods.

That’s also what Anoka-Hennepin Schools have done, turning to scratch cooking for meals such as chili and offering unlimited fruits and vegetables to students, Child Nutrition Director Allison Bradford said. In nearby Hopkins Schools, cafeteria staff sported “I dig my farmer” T-shirts at lunch last week as they served homemade pasta mixed with fresh tomatoes and basil from a Delano farm. All schools in the Hopkins district aim to have locally grown food twice a week.

“Kids are just getting more and more exposure to locally grown food,” said Laura Metzger, Hopkins’ school nutrition and wellness coordinator. “It’s pretty exciting.” The district’s cooks also have cut salt content by making their own pasta sauce, and they have trimmed fat by making 70 percent of their meals from scratch. They also have banned fried food; fryers don’t even exist in Hopkins’ cafeterias anymore.

Competing with quesadillas

Students won’t find fried food in Robbinsdale either, which has made similar changes, snatching up everything from locally produced beef hot dogs to locally grown corn on the cob. While the SHIP grant ends in December, the salads will stay, Lillie said, as long as they remain popular. Last year, staff were astonished at the salads’ success when schools like Northport Elementary sold more than 500 salads a month. Last week, the school staff saw salads fare well against hot dogs, but they did run into one strong culinary competitor: the ever-popular cheese quesadillas. Only a few students snatched up salads the day that the quesadillas were served.

Lillie said it shows the district’s dietary planners are still learning how to best make the greens appeal to students, tweaking and improving recipes each year. “We just have to continue to offer new things,” she said, and how they offer it matters. “The presentation is huge,” she said. “We eat with our eyes.”

Taste testing sessions?  Making greens appealing?  How about we take all this time and energy were spending on making kids eat certain foods and put it into academics?

Enrollment Stable in District 281

September 13, 2011

Information for this school year from the sun post;

11,900 students expected to report for classes Sept. 6 in District 281

An estimated 11,900 Robbinsdale District 281 students are expected to show up for the first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Starting and ending times will be as follows:

– 7:20 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.: Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Cooper High School in New Hope and Highview Alternative School in Crystal.

– 8:05 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.: Plymouth and Robbinsdale middle schools.

– 9:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.: Forest and Neill elementaries in Crystal; Lakeview Elementary in Robbinsdale; Meadow Lake, Sonnesyn and Spanish Immersion schools in New Hope; Noble Elementary in Golden Valley; Northport Elementary in Brooklyn Center; and Zachary Lane Elementary in Plymouth.

Bus numbers and pick-up locations for every school-age child in District 281 will be mailed on postcards to students in grades K-12. Anyone who did not receive a postcard or requires further information may call 763-504-8107.

Robbinsdale Area Schools has begun a four-year phase out of transfer busing in middle and high school honors programs. However, busing still will be offered for the district’s Spanish Immersion program in New Hope and at Plymouth Middle School because they are magnet schools and programs. There will still be busing for incoming seventh- and eight-grade honors students for 2011-12.

Due to new United States Department of Agriculture guidelines for meals, lunch prices are increasing for 2011-12. Meals include a minimum of three entrée choices, two fruit and/or vegetable choices, whole grain bread and milk. Ala Carte items are available at secondary schools. Lunch is priced at $2.20 for elementary, $2.40 for middle school and $2.55 at high school. Reduced price meals are available at 40 cents to students who are eligible. For students who bring their own lunches, milks is 50 cents.

Breakfast, priced at $1.30, is available in every District 281 school building. It is free to those students eligible for free or reduced meals. Students receive confidential PIN numbers to access their pre-paid account. Menus are available on the district website at rdale.org (click Child Nutrition under the support services menu). Menus also are included in elementary and middle school newsletters.

By the first day of school, all students attending Robbinsdale Area Schools must be in compliance with the Minnesota immunization law that requires immunizations for diptheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), polio (OPV/IPV), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), hepatitis B and varicella (chicken pox). Immunizations can be waived for medical reasons for families who are conscientiously opposed to immunizations.

Anyone With a 3rd Grader?

September 12, 2011

Anybody with a 3rd grader out there better check out their new textbook from McGraw-Hill;

Wondering whether elementary school students are truly indoctrinated in the left wing agenda? Well, wonder no more. They are; and it’s worse — far worse — than you can possibly imagine.

Consider, if you will, McGraw-Hill’s Our Democratic Heritage, a textbook designed for third-graders and published in 2010. If you’d assume that it was intended to teach kids about America’s founding and its institutions of government, you’d assume wrong.

The book is a veritable cornucopia of left wing spin.

There is but one sentence devoted to the Bill of Rights. It reads, “These rights [of citizens] are listed in the part of the U.S. Constitution called the Bill of Rights”.

• Two pages cover the Declaration of Independence
• Two pages describe the Constitution, all of which are devoted to the three branches of government and separation of powers
• No pages are devoted to James Madison and the authors of the Constitution; there is no mention of federalism
• Six pages are spent describing the background of Paul Revere
• Ten pages are devoted to the history of democracy in ancient Greece.
• George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are mentioned only in passing, almost as if they are immaterial scenery on the road to diversity and social Utopia.

In the section entitled “America’s Freedom Fighters”:

• Eight pages are spent covering the life of Frederick Douglass
• Five pages on Susan B. Anthony
• Six pages on Mary McLeod Bethune,
• Zero pages are devoted to the life of Abraham Lincoln

In fact, the entire Civil War is described only as a backdrop to the lives of Frederick Douglas and Mary McLeod Bethune.

In the section entitled “The Fight for Freedom Continues”:

• Seven pages are spent on praise for FDR (including 2 pages on Pearl Harbor)
• Six pages on Eleanor Roosevelt
• Six pages are devoted to Thurgood Marshall
• Six pages are spent on LBJ’s life and the wondrous effects of “Great Society”
• Six pages are spent on Cesar Chavez and the lionization of the labor movement

There is no list of American Presidents. There is no mention of the two-party system, nor the fact that there exists a group called “The Republican Party”. And there is no mention of a Republican President other than Abraham Lincoln, who merits but a picture and a single sentence. In fact, you would not know from reading this book that there ever was a Republican President.

A total of four paragraphs are spent describing World War II. There is no mention of President Harry S. Truman or of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to mercifully end World War II. There is, of course, no mention of Ronald Reagan. One of the goals we Constitutional conservatives must have is to regain control of our public school systems, which appear to be — if this book is any indication — completely out of control.

This is just disgusting, but all too typical.

Singing the Bus Service Blues

September 9, 2011

Well as most of you probably know District 281 is considering contracting out their bus service.  A couple of letters to the editor flew in last week critical of the idea;

Letter: Dist. 281 shouldn’t copy private industry

In the (Aug. 18) article (“District 281 could save $1 million a year by contracting for bus service”), Mark Bomchill wonders how a private contractor can provide bus service for so much less. Here is the answer: By paying drivers $12 per hour rather than $20. That will be the main result once a private contractor gets hold of the program.

That $8 saving for the contractor will reward him well enough that he will have no trouble maintaining the other elements of the program. But what happens to the drivers and to the community?

Those $20 jobs will eventually disappear and most of those remaining will pay closer to $12, with few or no benefits. The contractor’s human resources department can be callous regarding personnel issues. And the $1 million the district saves will no longer be in the hands of local drivers who were spending much of it locally. If the District 281 Board of Education were to bash the drivers in the same way the contractor will, the board could operate the buses even more frugally — it does not have to provide for a profit. But the board should not emulate private industry in this case. Such hammering on lower-paid workers is surely contributing to the nation’s race to the bottom.

Bruce Kittilson

Golden Valley

Now, while we respect Mr. Kittilson’s opinion here we have to take issue with this a bit.  Claiming there will be an $8 an hour drop in pay and that private industry pays “little or no benefits” is quite an exaggeration.  We think the schools SHOULD copy private industry by raising the retirement age and switching from unsustainable pensions to 401K plans.  That would probably be a better idea that getting rid of bus drivers.  We do sympathize with Mr. Kittilson on the issue of lower wages, but it’s been happening in the private sector for years now.  How can we ask a shrinking private sector to endlessly fund an ever-growing public sector?  Something has to give.

Here is another letter;

Letter: Not a simple move

I am quite concerned about the Robbinsdale School Board’s looking into contracting out its busing operation, and the annual million dollars it says can be saved. I can think of some reasons why it might not be a simple move. A few years ago Bloomington changed busing from contracted to in-house. That change was supposed to be for cost-savings and better control. I suggest the board investigate that experience in Bloomington. I can’t imagine Bloomington’s operation can be that much different than ours. If their switch indeed saved them money, Robbinsdale needs to know the how and why of it.

I would also hope that part of the projected savings in transportation would not be offset by an additional long-term rise in custodial costs because of the need for more of those staff. The current driver-custodian positions augment the duties of the custodians. I would like to hope this has been included in the estimates.

If the over-all budget of the district can benefit from the change, then I say “go for it.” But if it’s only a benefit in one budget account, and added cost in another one, then I would like to know that. And whatever negative impacts there may be, such as lost jobs for local people, should be considered as well. My biggest problem is who the contractor might be. The two most likely ones are First Student and Laidlaw, both owned by corporations based in other countries. I really don’t like the idea of my tax dollars going to some foreign corporation’s bottom line profits.

Dutch Fischer

Crystal

Good information Mr. Fischer, especially the custodial portion; are we going to contract the bus service and then hire new custodians?

Overall, we don’t have enough information to form an opinion on this issue.  We’d love to save more money but we’re not sure this is the best way and we need more information on this $1 million savings figure (ie; what are the long-term implications and what will we do with the custodians).