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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

About Those Education Test Scores

Category: Education
Posted: 08/02/15 07:03

by Dave Mindeman

The student test scores were released a few days ago and the data had some disappointments. Everyone is hoping and expecting for dramatic improvements, both in general scores and especially in the achievement gap. It looks like both are treading water right now.

First some observations:

1. The achievement gap is not improving and has gotten slightly worse in each of the last two cycles. We need even more focus on why this continues. And I am not convinced that testing is telling us what we need to know.

2. A chart breakdown examined the schools that were the lowest in scores while having the lowest percentage of students in poverty - an attempt at getting a control group. Three of the lowest 5 in scoring for math were charter schools. And the 5 lowest in reading were all charter schools. So obviously, more charter schools would not be a quick fix either.

3. Black, American Indian, and Hispanic students all have proficiency in the low to mid-30's. This seems to indicate that it is a multi-cultural problem, but also that poverty is playing a larger role.

4. It is still difficult to make direct comparisons because we keep tweaking the tests and we also have problems with the companies that score the tests. Can the data be trusted? Can it really be used for proper study of where we are at? These are important questions if testing is to be the sole criteria by which we measure our progress.

Now with those observations as background, are there things that we are doing right and are there things that can be done better?

A. Early Childhood. Governor Dayton has been focusing on early education during the last cycle. Obviously, this is not a short term fix. The benefits will not be felt for 5 to 10 years, but we need to be consistent about this. The current problems need to be addressed, yes, but that does not mean shifting our emphasis away from early ed. That is the long term solution and if we pull back in the middle of the investment, we will lose out on those long term goals.

B. It's Still About Money. Republicans complain that we are throwing money at the problem and getting no results. Well, when it comes to education investment, money is the method for finding the fixes. Yes, there will be times when we invest in something that doesn't work. But that only means that we need to learn from that and invest in something that has more potential. Cutbacks in funding only delay progress and cuts off our search for real solutions. Governor Dayton won't quit - we need a legislature that won't quit either.

C. Teachers. Republicans are quick to point fingers at teachers as part of the problem. But, quite frankly, the opposite is true. Teachers will be the solution if they are utilized properly. It is teachers who can see how kids are learning. It is teachers that can individualize the skills. It is teacher suggestions that we should be paying more attention to. And in addition, we need to compensate them fairly and subsidize recruitment of teachers who have experience dealing with minority achievement gaps.

Yes, the testing scores show us that we have many things to work on. But we also have to be sure we find the right areas that need to be worked on. Our education network is about to have another overhaul. Keeping the testing and the curriculum in such flux is counterproductive. But Minnesota still has to do better. Other states do not have the kind of achievement gap that we have, so obviously we are doing something wrong.

Let's not overthink this. Keep moving forward on early education. Keep true to the longer vision. Find ways to target minority education. And keep working on our students' overall environment - education, financial, and physical health.

We can and will do better, but only if we work as a team with the right tools.
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The Fox News Great Debate Drinking Game

Category: GOP Presidential Candidates
Posted: 07/31/15 23:26

by Dave Mindeman

Next week we will have the prime spectacle of American politics - the Fox News Presidential Free For All....uh, I mean Debate.

To help you enhance your viewing, I suggest several items that can top off any drinking games you may have already worked out.

Top ten suggestions for mandatory shots when these items are said during the debate....

#10. Anytime moderator says...Mr. Trump, your time has expired.

#9. Anytime Trump says..."Huuuuge" or "the worst ever".

#8. A special penalty anytime a person says Mr. Carson instead of Dr. Carson.

#7. Special dispensation when Rand Paul says "filibuster".

#6. Special rule making for when Jeb actually mentions W.

#5. Double shots if (ah,heck...when) Scott Walker brags about a non-existent "great" Wisconsin economy.

#4. A triple shot if anybody mentions Trumps hair.

#3. Bonus for anyone who can predict which candidate will never get to say anything at all.

#2. Additional bonus for someone who predicts who will be the first candidate Trump says is the "worst ever".

#1. And an automatic win if someone predicts the number of times the word immigration gets uttered during the debate.

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MN GOP Once Again Fails Greater Minnesota

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 07/31/15 11:43

by Dave Mindeman

Huh. The MN GOP House Republicans, the champions of greater Minnesota, are again showing their true colors.

Governor Dayton is looking out for the resort owners at Lake Mille Lacs. He hears their concerns about the potentially shortened walleye season. And Dayton understands how tourism in the lakes area is a vital part of the outstate economy. He is willing to go to a special session to help them get relief.

But the "champions" of greater Minnesota are, once again, the roadblock....

And even though most legislators agree that the walleye situation on Mille Lacs is dire, they aren't convinced about the need for a special session. "I think the suggestion of a special session is a little bit premature," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, chair of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee. The state should look at alternatives, he said, such as promoting other fishing options on the lake and catch-and-release requirements for walleye.

Hackbarth would be the lead person on getting that help for those resort owners. But he is the first one to question the need.

Sen. Brandon Peterson is even less helpful....

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, said he doesn't think a special session should be called at all. Petersen said he sympathizes with the plight of resort owners on Mille Lacs, but it's not the role of state government and the taxpayers to rescue them.

Unfortunately, the GOP is again failing to sympathize with circumstances that speak to greater Minnesota.

This is a case of special circumstances requiring special action. We don't hesitate in the case of storm damage....well, these resort owners are facing a "storm" situation that is not of their own making. They don't have little control over the rules and regulations that help keep the walleye population vibrant. And their tourism trade depends on it.

How often does the House GOP have to fail greater Minnesota before the outstaters realize the mistake they made during the last election?

How many times?
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