Monday, February 08, 2010

Great Breakfast. The University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development sponsored another of its policy breakfasts last Friday morning and I left wishing that they held them more often. Of course, the University, like every entity public and private, is facing more than its share of financial challenges these days and those challenges clearly prevent it from doing many of the things I am sure it would love to do.

The topic for the breakfast was "Benchmarking Teacher Quality for Policymakers in Minnesota." Dr. Karen Seashore Lewis, the Robert H. Beck Professor of Ideas in Education at the University of Minnesota, served as moderator for the session with a panel of experts consisting of Dr. Misty Sato, Assistant Professor of Teacher Development and Science Education at the University of Minnesota; Peter Hutchinson, President of the Bush Foundation; Dr. Valeria Silva, Superintendent of St. Paul Schools; Matt Kramer, President of Teach for America; and Garnet Franklin, Education Issues Specialist at Education Minnesota.

It was a very spirited discussion with a lot of great ideas thrown around by the panelists. I was especially impressed with Peter Hutchinson's comments regarding the need for innovation and the reluctance of those along the education spectrum to think "outside the box." I realize that's easier said than done (and Hutchinson would likely agree), but there is clearly a frustration by all of those operating in the current paradigm who are attempting to promote teacher preparation and maintain teacher quality that is starting to come out sideways in reactions ranging from recriminations to resignation (Oooh. Nice alliteration purely by accident.) In one of his comments, Hutchinson urged local school districts to make contracts with higher education institutions to promise to hire graduates provided they were trained in the manner that fit the needs of the district. Obviously, smaller districts would not have the leverage of larger districts in trying to go down this road, but I found the suggestion something worth discussing. I talked with Hutchinson after the breakfast and I hope to have him speak to SEE membership at either the April or May meeting.

Hutchinson was not the only interesting panelist. Each of the others brought interesting data into the discussion. Matt Kramer did a great job pointing out how Minnesota is not doing well in closing the achievement gap with a very good power point (that I am going to try and obtain). Valeria Silva's presentation, both in her formal comments and responses to questions from the audience, was electrifying. Her passion clearly came through in describing the challenges facing not only St. Paul, but the entire state. Garnett Franklin did an excellent job as well, pointing out the concerns of teachers and the need (and desire on the part of teachers) to be part of the solution.

All told, it was an excellent event. Thought-provoking and vital in its description of the challenges facing Minnesota and the nation in the area of teacher preparation and on-going professional development needs. Kudos to the University's College of Education and Human Development in continuing its outreach efforts. The University has a wealth of information on best practices and they are doing an excellent job of trying to get that information into the systems where it can be applied.

Dr. Rod Paige on Mid-Morning. I don't get to sit around and listen to the radio during the session, but I was fortunate to be in the car yesterday morning and caught former US Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige with Kerry Miller on Mid-Morning. Paige, along with his sister, Dr. Elaine Witty, have written a new book entitled "The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing it is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of our Tine." Although I couldn't listen to the whole interview while it was broadcast, I found Paige's comments that I did hear to be interesting.

To listen to the whole interview, go to this link:

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