Archive for the ‘Choice Is Yours program’ Category

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!

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The Case for Vouchers Part 1; Competition and White Flight

December 14, 2010

We are using several posts over the next week or two to respond to Give2Attain’s post where he supports “competition” but opposes a voucher system.

First, we want to compliment Give2Attain for his thoughtful post and we enjoy our general discussions with him.  His blog and links are very good and helpful.  Unlike most people who oppose vouchers, Give doesn’t demagogue the issue and points out the good that would come from a voucher system and the reasons for his skepticism .  We want to take issue with the reasons for his opposition in a series of several posts (this is too long for one post).  Here we are going to speak about competition and so-called “white flight.”

Here is a passage from Give’s post;

Now Open Enrollment, Intradistrict Transfer, Charter Schools, Private Schools, Families Moving, etc already promote white/affluent flight and people deserting their communities instead of fighting for them… Do we really want to make it easier and promote it? Do we want to promote separation. instead of community building through our schools?

Now why do we assume that if a family that is white CHOOSES to go to a charter school or another district (Hopkins, Osseo, Wayzata etc.) that race is the reason?  Why are they always accused of “abandoning their “community?”  If a family leaves Minneapolis and comes to Robbinsdale how come they aren’t accused of “abandoning their community?”  Does the Choice Is Your Program promote “flight?”  We would suggest that there are plenty of reasons why families have left the district over the years such as school closings, poor management of Stan Mack, poor communication, poor performance, program cuts, more school options, etc.  Also we think schools should concentrate on reading, writing, math, and science not promoting the left wing agenda of so-called tolerance, diversity, and community building (whatever that is).

In addition, what about families who choose to go Sacred Heart, or St. Raphael’s or the FAIR school (All in Crystal and Robbinsdale)?  I don’t think anyone can accuse them of “abandoning their community.”  And the tuition at St. Raphael’s is $3120 compared to almost $11,000 we spend per kid in the public school so which is the better deal?  How about kids who are home schooled?  Isn’t a parent one on one with their kid (talk about class size reductions) an ideal setting (at least most of the time)?  The funny thing is that a home schooled kid costs us taxpayers nothing while in the public schools we can’t spend enough!  It must be poverty!

Of course, going to a religious school, home schooling, and charters, aren’t always an option for everyone but that by itself is unfair.  Some kids get opportunity but others don’t’?  We think vouchers can help level the playing field.  If everyone has a voucher to use as they wish, we think that will encourage people to look at their options.  Maybe if people have a voucher, private schools will pop up in our area.  Who knows?

Give2Attain seems to approve of charter schools, open enrollment, and intra-district transfers yet he opposes a voucher system.  So in other words, competition is OK as long as the “public” provides it.  If competition is a good thing, why then should we “limit who can compete?”  Give seems to think that the public school system can be “tweaked” or “fine-tuned” but we think we’ve spent the past 50 years trying to do just that.  Where is the evidence we’re getting anywhere?  Public school apologists just offer the same old lame brain solutions; more money, lower class size, more programs….blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the bottom line; what is more important…..where kids goes to school or whether or not kids get the opportunity to get a great education?  The fact that WHERE a kid goes to school is SO important tells us that getting a great education is secondary.  It makes no sense at all.



Lottery or Cherry Picking?

June 10, 2010

Has anyone looked at the Kindergarten Entrance policy to the Spanish Immersion Program lately?  Entrance to this program (and its 132 slots) is supposed to be a lottery system but check out all the special provisions;

Special Provisions

PROVISION FOR SIBLING PREFERENCE
Applicants with siblings currently enrolled in RSIS and/or the middle school immersion program are enrolled automatically providing the completed application is submitted by the annual application deadline.

PROVISION FOR SIBLINGS IN THE SAME GRADE
In the event that siblings from the same grade apply, only one name is entered into the lottery and if drawn, each of those students is admitted.

TERMINATION OF THE SIBLING PREFERENCE PROVISION
The sibling preference provision is terminated when the family moves out of the district boundaries or when the family of children enrolled through the Minnesota Choice is Yours Program moves outside of the qualifying sections of Minneapolis. Children enrolled before the move may remain in the program.

PROVISION FOR GRADE 5 RSIS STUDENTS
Students enrolled in grade 5 at RSIS are automatically enrolled in the middle school immersion program. Grade 5 RSIS students who leave the immersion program are automatically enrolled in their neighborhood middle school unless an Intra-District Transfer has been approved or the student has been accepted to a Special Program (IBMYP or Pre-AP).

PROVISION FOR CHILDREN OF IMMERSION CLASSROOM TEACHERS
Licensed classroom teachers from RSIS and from the middle school immersion program who demonstrate proficiency in the Spanish language, and who complete and submit an application before the annual application deadline, may have their kindergarten child enrolled automatically.  Students admitted under this provision do not displace other students admitted through the lottery process or students from the wait list.  Children in grades 1-5 are admitted as seats become available providing they have been consecutively enrolled in a Spanish immersion program elsewhere.  This provision will be reviewed every three years.

PROVISION TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY FOR DISTRICT STUDENTS
The information night for RSIS is held shortly after the other district schools’ kindergarten registration night.  An RSIS application form, including an application for the Educational Benefits/Meals*, is available to all families attending the kindergarten registration night, as well as to all families attending the RSIS information night.

  • The RSIS application form is also included in Kindergarten Information and Registration, a district publication provided to all families during the pre-school screening process.
  • The RSIS kindergarten lottery is held shortly after the RSIS information night. This provision will be reviewed every three years.*Form submitted to qualify for free/reduced tuition slots

PROVISION TO ENCOURAGE A MORE DIVERSE STUDENT BODY
The number of kindergarten openings at RSIS reserved for students who qualify for the federal lunch subsidy is equal to the number of students included in one section of RSIS kindergarten for the upcoming school year.

  • One-half of these openings are reserved for qualified applicants who reside in the attendance area of Northport and Meadow Lake Elementary Schools* and who qualify for the federal lunch subsidy. Names of applicants not selected under this provision are placed into the general lottery.
  • The number of scholarships awarded for full-day kindergarten at RSIS will be equal to one-half the number of students included in one section of RSIS kindergarten for the upcoming school year.  This provision will be reviewed every three years.*Northport and Meadow Lake Elementary Schools meet the statutory description of racially identifiable schools and are thus named in the district desegregation/integration plan.

PROVISION FOR MINNESOTA CHOICE IS YOURS PROGRAM
Two openings for the kindergarten program are reserved for applicants qualifying for the Minnesota Choice is Yours program. Students admitted under this provision do not displace other students admitted through the lottery process. The openings are eliminated if they do not fill before the second week of school in the fall.  This provision will be reviewed every three years.

Let’s see; there are special privileges for kids of staff, brothers and sisters, free and reduced lunch (of course), and we have an affirmative action provision as well as slots for kids who don’t live here.  So how many “slots” are actually chosen based on a lottery?  Two-thirds?  Half?  Maybe less?  It sounds like we are trying to cherry pick what students go to this school.  Perhaps it is time to end this program, we have enough kids who supposedly can’t speak English let alone Spanish.

Who Wrote This Agenda?

January 13, 2010

We here at 281 exposed are all in favor of citizen involvement.  No community ever seems to have enough people who are passionate and well-informed about the issues.  That is why District 281’s Legislative Action Coalition’s agenda is so disappointing to us.  There agenda is as following;

The State platform included support for;

Funding framework for the New Minnesota Miracle, full funding of special education, reform of integration aid, more shared services, repayment of unalloted money, funding for early childhood programs.

At the Federal level;

Reform of No Child Left Behind, more special education money, funding for Even Start Family Literacy, more early childhood education, and more after school enrichment programs.

Let’s sum that up with four words; “We want more money!”  Let’s see, thanks to some idiot judge the Legislature is now facing $4 billion deficit this year and $5.4 billion deficit in 2011-2013.  The federal government now has a $13 trillion debt!  What are the odds were are going to get “more funding for early childhood or even start programs?”  Hell, we’ll be lucky if funding just remains flat!  Why don’t we ask for EDUCATION REFORM to SAVE MONEY instead of throwing money at the problem.  And before anyone makes comments asking us “What would we do” or “What should be cut” here are a few ideas;

First, get rid of the Choice Is Yours Program.  This way we don’t have to pay money to taxi kids all around the suburbs (by the way just because the state is paying for it doesn’t make it free like some people on our school board think).  This program isn’t about choice.  If it were about choice, then everyone could do it.  It’s about social engineering.  Second, perhaps some school districts need to combine with others.  The Brooklyn Center District has only about 1800 students.  St. Louis Park has about 4000.  Why can’t these districts  combine with neighboring districts (say Brooklyn Center with us or Osseo and St. Louis Park with Hopkins for example).  That way we can eliminate administration, eliminate a superindentant making an absurd $200,000 a year, and perhaps close a school or two (talk about shared services).  We could reform “free and reduced lunch.”  We at 281 exposed are sick and tired of paying for kids to eat lunch at school.  What ever happened to bringing your own lunch?  Who is paying for lunch for these kids when they are home for the summer or winter break?  If fewer kids ate lunch at school, then maybe we would need fewer people in the kitchen staff which would reduce expenses.  Also, something has to be done to break the Union stranglehold on education reform.  The best way to do that is to bring in more competition.  If that means more charter schools, vouchers, or tuition tax credits, then let it be done.  This way people have the power not the educational establishment.  Is that enough ideas to start with?

The bottom line is that we are not going to get more funding for what the LAC is asking.  It just isn’t going to happen, not in the short run at least.  So we need to be creative or face another referendum in 2011 or 2012.

1/4 of District 281 Students Attend Non-Public Schools Or Other Districts

March 13, 2008

The MN Sun-Post confirms what most residents believed about declining enrollment in District 281: Parents and students are voting with their feet.

A new report is shedding more light on open enrollment in Robbinsdale District 281 Schools.

Dennis Beekman, the district’s executive director of technology, told the School Board on March 3 that 76 percent of the 15,225 school-age children who live in the district attended District 281 schools in 2006-07, a number that has remained constant the last five years.

He said the report showed 1,425 District 281 resident students attended non-public schools, and 1,132 attended public schools outside the district.

The 24 percent who attend school elsewhere are split between non-public schools (9 percent), other public schools (8 percent), charter schools (2 percent), special education and other programs in Independent School District 287 (2 percent), and 1 percent each at Highview Alternative School, home schools, and the West Metro Education Program (WMEP’s Fair and downtown schools).

Residents who attend school elsewhere choose neighboring districts as follows: Hopkins, 288 students; Wayzata (287); Minneapolis (193); and Osseo (189). Others attended Brooklyn Center School District, St. Louis Park, Edina and Anoka-Hennepin schools, Beekman said.

Given the poor performance, violence and other issues at 281 middle and high schools, exporting to other districts and non-public schools will most likely continue and possibly rise.

Cooper High Drop-Out Charged In North Minneapolis Murder

February 21, 2008

Update: The two Amstrong brothers arrested in connection with the murder have been released pending further investigation. A Cooper HS dropout has been formally charged with second-degree murder. All three boys were imported to District 281 with “The Choice Is Yours” program. From the MN Sun-Post February 21:

A 15-year-old Minneapolis boy, who was a student at Cooper High School in New Hope until he withdrew from classes last month, was charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County Juvenile Court Feb. 20, in connection with the death of 70-year-old Pirkko Gaultney.

Minneapolis Police found Gaultney’s body Feb. 13, at her home in the 3600 block of Fremont Avenue North.

The 15-year-old boy was charged with one count of second-degree murder during the commission of a burglary, and one count of second-degree murder during the commission of a robbery, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is seeking to have the boy certified as an adult, according to a spokesperson from that office.

Two Minneapolis brothers, ages 15 and 16, both students at Armstrong High School in Plymouth, were arrested at school Feb. 15 in connection with the case, but were released pending further investigation, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

“It was a surprise to us when [the arrests] happened on Friday morning,” Robbinsdale District 281 Superintendent Stan Mack said. “When plain-clothes officers from the Minneapolis Police Department came to the school to arrest the students, they were appropriately in class. There was no disobedience involved.”

All three of the boys were open- enrolled in their respective District 281 high schools as ninth-graders as part of the Choice Is Yours program, Superintendent Stan Mack said.

The Choice is Yours program is the result of a Minneapolis School District lawsuit through which suburban districts are mandated to accept Minneapolis students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

“It was a surprise to us when [the arrests] happened, ” Mack responds. It’s not surprising to those used to problems some imported students bring to our schools… and now we have the unhappy distinction of having an accused murderer attending Cooper. It’s time concerned residents and suburban districts work together to end the Choice is Yours mandate.

Pirkko Gaultney