Category Archives: Education

No Child left falling between the cracks of Outcome Based Education

I experienced very little “local control” when I served on the Duluth School Board except from my fellow school board members. As George Balach said of me when I was elected to be the Board Chair in 1998 I was only one of nine members. As Chairman I was pretty much the prisoner of all the other school board members. Before that I had been one of two newly elected board members and the seven longer serving members took little notice of me.

The year I was elected Chair I leveraged the support of four newly elected School Board members who did not trust me or the other four incumbent Board members. They had all run elections based on the theme that the incumbents were bums for bringing the Edison Schools to Duluth. The four remaining incumbents, including me, had all voted to bring Edison in and to add insult just after the newcomers were elected we voted to protect Edison from the possibility that the new Board could prematurely scuttle the Edison experiment. Because I got the anti-Edison newcomers to vote for me with my vote providing the five-vote-majority on our 9 member board my old colleagues didn’t trust me either.

It was all very humorous for about a week Continue reading

While Duluth’s public school enrollment declines college enrollment grows

The DNT did include a graphic from today’s newsprint story on the increase in enrollment numbers at local colleges. Its funny but when the Trib reported on this year’s public school enrollment they trumpeted a growth in public school students when there was really a small decrease. But this graphic does seem to show that there has been another increase in enrollment in our three Duluth colleges up to 20,326. If the graphic is right then last year’s enrollment for UMD, LSC and Scholastica was 20,052. Granted this is only an increase of 274 students but the headline is sure a lot more restrained than the one about the public school enrollment: “Area colleges show little change in student numbers.” The Trib could honestly written a headline more like: “Despite tough economy area colleges see enrollment growth.”

Its not clear to me from the story or the graphic if all the students listed are students living in Duluth or all students including disembodied online students. It would make a big difference for Duluth because higher education continues to be a major if not the major cause of growth in our area. 20,000 students. Heck that would be one in five Duluthians if they lived in the City. They may live cheap, ten to a rental, but they are pouring money into Duluth. Sure, they party on nice weekends around my neighborhood, curse them, but their spending powers Duluth.

on taxing millionaires the way the rest of us are taxed [BIGOT ALERT]

As the GOP rushes to defend lower tax rates on millionaire “job creators” I can’t help but think about a half a dozen job creators I’ve talked with over the years who are busy making jobs in China because the Chinese can manufacture so much, so quickly and so cheaply. I’m pretty sure that Bernie Madoff, in his prime, would have appreciated Republican support as well plus all the well connected white kids who got generous scholarships to study at the Ivies on their way to becoming job creators. As for Pell Grants for everyone else. Not a big GOP priority.

Cutting slack – or not

I only have a small coterie of regular emailers but they send me interesting things. One just sent me this column by a Republican mouthpiece explaining that just because one third of Minnesota’s School Districts are asking for operational levies (including I might ad Duluth) it doesn’t mean that District’s have fallen that far behind previous spending.

Johnathon Blake is absolutely right. Most districts are getting roughly what they got eight years ago only without any inflationary boost. But then inflation has been pretty much nonexistant over that time so what?

I’ll make two quick comments:

First: this information explains why the Duluth School District has no ground to stand on when it complains that its current fiscal woes are all the work of St. Paul.

Second: There is one big hole in Mr. Blake’s argument which is especially important for those who want to compare education spending between the fifty states. Minnesota has not kept up with the most aggressive states in investing in its schools. When I was on the Duluth School Board starting about twelve years ago we were ranked 5th or thereabouts among the fifty states in per pupil expenditures. Today we are in the middle of the pack around 23rd.

My two conclusions:

1. Don’t cut the Duluth School Administration any slack.

2. Don’t cut the great Tea Party anti-tax warriors any slack either.

Will Judy vote to increase Red Plan spending by…

…another $3.3 million a year?

If I understand the arguments of Loren Martell who I just spoke with and who was not handcuffed during the perfunctory meeting at which the Board raised another 15 million for the Red Plan the answer is, “Yes.” I hope the Tribune will ask her before the election whether she will vote to bump up this spending or not. It will do nothing to lower the student teacher ratio but it will add more bangles to the Red Plan schools.

I’ll have no objection to her doing this if she tells us prior to the November General Election what she plans to do. Would the Trib’s Editors be as curious about this as I am? I don’t know but at least one of their number, Chuck Frederick, is an honest man.

…if you don’t like an editorial cartoon published in the News Tribune, don’t blame the writer of the letter or column that accompanies it. Blame me.

And send the rest to jail

Perhaps Schools were designed to drain the life out of children. I’d like to think that was part of the reason I never made it as a teacher.

“These are students who demonstrate great daring, creativity and teamwork during long hours playing shoot’em-up multiplayer video games, a much maligned pursuit that teaches any number of valuable cognitive skills. Yet in the classroom, they stare blankly at chalkboards when they’re not stealing glances at smartphones, doing just enough to avoid being singled out and punished.”

And let’s test the hell out of them while we’re at it. OK Kids! Just what were the 14 points?

Speaking of a college education

Of all the sections in this infographic the one I find the most troubling is the one that says that only 1 in three students show a measurable improvement in cognitive skills after three years of college:

From C's to A's
Created by:

And how much of this info did JCI provide?

A better summation than I’ve offered on the St. Louis County School skulduggery.

The News Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reported on a court ruling pertaining to a bond referendum that passed with 51 percent of the vote in School District 2142 in December 2009 (“Court: St. Louis County School Board money can’t be used to campaign for referendums,” Aug. 3). If you traveled south for the winter only to return to a higher property tax bill, here’s how it happened.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed that “the School Board intentionally distributed statements in its educational material that it knew were false. It also ruled that using taxpayer money to campaign for passage of a referendum was not authorized.” In other words School Board members used our money to trick us into voting yes on a referendum so they could take more of our money.

There is more to a quality education than just the location and condition of facilities.

Rob Melnotte

Early evidence of the superiority of bricks over brains.

Greetings, School Board members~
The results of the 2010-2011 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) science test will be publicly released tomorrow, August 12th. The MCA Science is an online test given to students in grades 5, 8, and once in high school. It is designed to help districts measure progress toward meeting Minnesota’s academic standards, as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The MCA science results for the state, district, and individual schools are attached.

Here are a few themes from the data:

Scores for grades 5, 8, and high school decreased 3, 5, and 6 percentage points, respectively, over last year’s scores.

Oh my God!

Each grade level scored below the state average.

No wonder Dixon hightailed it out of town.

Seven schools scored above the state average (Congdon, Homecroft, Lakewood, Lester Park, Lowell, Woodland, East).

Meaning that the other 7 or so schools scored below the State average.

Three schools made gains over last year’s scores (Congdon, Nettleton, Lowell).

Meaning that the other 11 or so schools saw no improvement or declined.

American Indian students scored above the state average and made gains over last year’s scores in grade 5.

Meaning that American Indian students scored below the state average in grade eight and in high school.

Asian students scored above the state average in grade 5 and high school.

Meaning that Asian students scored below the state average in grade 8.

Black students scored above the state and made gains over last year’s scores in grade 8.

Meaning that Black students scored below the state average and declined from last years scores in grade 5 and in high school.

Hispanic students scored above the state average and made gains over last year’s scores in all three grade levels (grade 5, grade 8 and high school).

Meaning success for the District’s smallest ethnic minority.

Students receiving special education services made gains over last year’s scores in grade 5.

Meaning that Special education student’s test scores declined in grade 8 and in high school

Note: The MCA-II science test does not yet match the current MN academic standards. Next spring, with the launch of the new MCA-III science test, the standards and the expectations will be aligned. MDE noted that this transition may have an impact of this year’s test scores statewide. District administrators, principals, teachers, and other educational staff will carefully study this data and use it to review curriculum and inform instruction.


Tawnyea L. Lake, PhD, NCSP
Director of Assessment, Evaluation, and Performance
Duluth Public Schools

Thank you Timberjay

I just received the entire Timberjay story from its publisher. He’d heard of my interest in it from some reader. As I said before its a joy to see serious journalism still being practiced somewhere, anywhere, in Northeastern Minnesota.

Court of Appeals raps St. Louis County School Board
By Marshall Helmberger

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has dealt a serious blow to the St. Louis County School Board as it seeks to defend itself against charges that it broke state laws in its quest to win passage of its $78.8 million bond measure. Continue reading

Imagine trying to be a little more creative…

…as a python constricts your diaphram and I think you will see what Minnesota’s schools face.

I haven’t read any of the reactions in today’s Trib about the latest Minnesota law attempting to make teaching more effective. I suspect the State’s continued constriction of spending will have a much bigger impact and for the negative.

I was going to link to the story on the state’s delayed payment of K-12 funding but the Trib hasn’t bothered to put it on their website. Yet!

Hell freezes over

No not really. It will take the Democrats and the Republicans working out a sensible federal spending/taxing plan for that to happen.

My buddy sent me this. No sharp elbows here. We both apparently agree with this old Republican war horse.

Would you run for office now?

Oh, hell, no. Now it’s just sharp elbows, and instead of having a caucus where you sit down and say, “What are you going to do for your country?” you sit figuring out how to screw the other side.

A testimonial to the about-to-be-closed Lake Superior High School

From an email sent to all the Duluth School Board members……names deleted.

LSHS SHOULD STAY OPEN [**************************]Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 1:17 AM To: ************* Cc: School Board

My name is ***** *******, recent graduate of Lake Superior High School. Here is my story about how LSHS changed my life. My first year of high school I went to Superior High School. While attending there, I didnt get the one on one learning that I needed to succeed in school with my learning disability. After talking to my friends and family, I decided to get more information on LSHS. I’d heard that there were smaller class sizes, and the teachers worked hands on one on one with the students. I was put on a waiting list and soon after I was accpeted. I can honestly say LSHS gave me the confidence in myself to be dedicated to pursuing my dreams. The staff and teachers accomodated my learning requirements, amd made my focus turn from the bad things in life, to focusing on getting on track and graduating. LSHS helped me strive for my goals, and gain confidence in my education. With the help of the staff and teachers, I graduated 1 year before I was supposed to, with 2 awards. I am currently still pursuing my goals and I’m attending Lake Superior College’s Building Construction program, and working full time at McDonalds. LSHS has truly saved my life, and many other peoples lives that I know, and has set many people on the right track in life. If the school remains open, LSHS will change lives of many more teenagers that dont do well in a public school. If the school closes, it will affect the number of dropouts in Duluth greatly.

Sincerely, *******

Thugs for Better Schools II

As Tim Grover has explained quite correctly there is no more worthy reason to employ the Government’s power to take property away from homeowners than for the purpose of public education. If only Native Americans could appreciate the government’s nobility and high call to purpose. Its called eminent domain.

And yet despite Tim’s pronouncement the Dixon-led school board made much of never having had to resort to eminent domain acknowledging that ED was not a very popular thing to employ. The denial of using ED was simply not true.

Tim was right. The School Board is protected by Federal statutes which give it carte blanc authority to take private property for the Red Plan. No homeowner could have withstood the Board’s authority to take their land and homes for the purpose of public education. As a result every one of the hundred or so folks who lost their homes to a Red Plan project was threatened with eminent domain whether they had to be taken to court or not. Had they attempted to fight for their property they would have lost it with little more than a perfunctory court appearance.

This effectively meant that any homeowner’s best option was to talk tough and attempt to force the District into giving them a good price on their homes to avoid a court fight and the appearance of bullying homeowers. While it is possible the Courts might have awarded them more money from the District it would almost certainly have cost them more in legal services than a higher purchase price would have been worth. In this sense eminent domain was a weapon aimed at every citizen who’s property stood in the way of the Red Plan.

And then just a few months ago eminent domain finally was employed to take a little land away from the business owner up by the Piedmont School. Scott Kuiti had been lied to by the District’s property manager about the acquisition of land. He had been cheated out of a business tenant by the District’s realtor who took the tenant for herself after telling the tenant Kuiti’s property would be torn down by the District. He had the District’s contractor tear down foliage on his property without permission and then trespass on his land with heavy machinery without asking permission. Finally, the School Board itself decided to take his land through eminent domain. Oh, and the Duluth News Tribune wrote an editorial making Mr. Kuiti look like the bad guy. Nice!

Mr. Kuiti did flip Tim Grover the bird when the Board Chairman came around to look at the damage. Not Nice! But, frankly, who could blame him.