Update for September 2007 — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
If this is your first update from Parents United, welcome!
It was great to meet many of you at our parent levy workshop and at the PTA conference in August. Please let us know if you have questions or experience any problems
with your mailings from us.
In This Issue
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Critical Moments: Levy Season
A near-record number of school districts are working to pass levies this fall.
Parents United hosted a Levy Workshop, “Let’s Talk Strategy,” in mid-August for parent “Vote Yes” groups. We were overwhelmed with the response: Parents from 34 districts from Grand Rapids and Breckenridge to Marshall and all points in between came together that day to learn and share. Since then, I have made visits to Albert Lea and Farmington. This whole state is out trying to raise dollars for their schools! Let me know how things are going in your districts.
If you have a levy website active in your district, please e-mail our website manager, Jennifer Armstrong, with your site’s address. This is helpful in connecting parents with each other.
In this issue
At the Capitol
Reauthorization of NCLB
No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization at the federal level. Representatives of Parents United’s board met with Congresswoman Betty McCollum to discuss this, as well as other concerns we have at the federal level. We will continue to meet with our federal delegation in the coming months.
Congresswoman McCollum asked State Senator Wiger to convene a Senate hearing on September 17, at which a great variety of testifiers spoke about NCLB—parents, teachers, superintendents, representatives of education organizations and Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. The consensus at this hearing was clear. Although all agree that all children can and should learn, the NCLB method of one high stakes assessment, and using that assessment to sanction schools, is woefully inadequate for a great, great many reasons.
In response to the often heard refrain, here stated by Senator Hann (R-Eden Prairie), that NCLB allows consumers to assess how our public schools are doing with the dollars received by the federal government, the Congresswoman made clear that with each state establishing its own standards, AYP means nothing nationally since the data is not comparable across states. And Minnesota’s desire for high standards only accelerates our annual AYP rates. Perversely, this causes Minnesota to potentially have more “failing schools” than a state that holds its standards static. Congresswoman McCollum also made clear that NCLB is under-funded by $55 billion annually. (My editorial note: This, along with the under-funding of the federal government‘s special education mandate, leaves our schools behind!)
Commissioner Seagren stated that one-half of the Minnesota Department of Education’s budget is spent on testing. And she is fearful of having the bill be “more bureaucratic,” adding “burdensome complexity and more paperwork,” and she stated that “we need common sense.”
Of great interest was the testimony of former Senator Steve Kelley in his present capacity as a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute. He told the story of the German government’s quest to increase the wood output from their forests. They decided to use one measurement of that productivity and when they found which trees netted the highest results, they planted just those trees. After 80 years, they realized they had destroyed the diversity of their ecosystem that had given them their great wood productivity in the first place. Sadly it had taken them 80 years to find this out and by then the ramifications were dire. What a wonderfully analogous story!
It appears that the federal NCLB will be reauthorized with some tweaking. We need to pay very close attention to this law and make sure that the changes are in the best interests of our students.
P.S. MN task force working?
We continue waiting for the legislative task force to begin their work and we have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership expressing our hope for its work, as well as our disappointment that it has yet to begin. We will continue working toward getting them in the same room.
In this issue
On Our Website
Questions? Email Mary Cecconi
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
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