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Forum Commentary and opinion regarding issues in the world of business and public policy

How to respond to U.S. education chief ’s challenge? by Joe Nathan DAKOTA COUNTY TRIBUNE

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was direct when he spoke in Minnesota recently. While complimenting some of Minnesota’s reforms and education accomplishments, Duncan pointed out that we have one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps between whites and students of color. He is “shocked” that Minnesota does not have stronger “alternative routes” into teaching for talented recent college graduates and effective teachers from other states seeking to work in Minnesota. How should we respond? First, by listening openly to the information he shared. Duncan is not just concerned about our achievement gap. He’s also concerned nationally about the fact that a generation ago, the U.S. ranked first in the world in the percentage of people with college degrees. Now, we are ninth. He wisely wants us to lead the world in graduates of two and four-year higher-

Photo by Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talks during a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce event in January.

Guest Columnist Joe Nathan

education institutions. Duncan is concerned about millions of U.S. high school dropouts. Minnesota ranks well above the national average. He’s right. We still have too many. Duncan wants more attention to students who win science fairs and other academic competitions. Noting that American students have high self-esteem about their academic accomplishments compared to others around the world. “I want to lead the world in self-esteem, but I want it to be based on reality,” he said. Second, by acknowledging that Minnesota schools, colleges and universities can have much more positive impact. Last week, two Minnesota House Education committees discussed various efforts to improve public education. I was encouraged by: • The bi-partisan push to have more direct communication between high school and college faculty – and not just with college professors teaching high school faculty. There are outstanding teachers in high schools and colleges. They need to learn from each other. We’ve convened a few such meetings. Legislators want many more. • Bipartisan agreement that there are outstanding district and charter public schools in Minnesota. We need to learn from both. • The agreement that we do need alternative routes into teaching, as Duncan proposed. There are differences about details. But there is a bipartisan agreement that Minnesota has lagged behind other states in bringing some of the most talented young and mid-career people into

Photo by Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shared the stage with David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, during an event organized by the chamber in January. education. Third, by convening the kind of meeting that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Superintendent Valeria Silva pulled together. They brought in more than 40 people representing the faith community, social service agencies, the city, school district and other groups to discuss specific ways of working together to help serve children after school between 3 and 6 p.m. Whether it is congregations or senior citizens providing tutoring, after school counseling in public libraries on how to fill out college application forms, organizations cooperating on the use of their athletic, classroom and other facilities so they don’t sit vacant, there is a lot that can be done. More collaboration in every community, focused on helping students and families should be a priority. Finally, we need a few local and statewide clear, measurable goals. This was recommended at the legislative hearing and

the St. Paul meeting mentioned above. Everything cannot be a priority. As former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander has said: “if we are not clear where we are going, any road will take us there.” Joe Nathan, former public school teacher, administrator, PTA president, parent of three public school graduates now directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions welcome, jnathan@

Dakota County Tribune BUSINESS WEEKLY

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Bill provides incentive for students to stretch horizons by Rep. Kurt Bills DAKOTA COUNTY TRIBUNE

As I teach seniors at Rosemount High School, I interact with students from incredibly diverse levels of maturity and motivation. Some are ready to break through their growth ceiling long before their official cap-and-gown day arrives. Some of these students do this subtly, within the school through participating in College in the Schools and Advanced Placement courses. Other students engage this process off-campus by taking advantage of Post Secondary Education Options programs. In competing globally, let’s encourage more students to push their limits and face new challenges. A bill I’ve authored as a member of the House Education Finance Committee does just that by providing scholarships for high school students who graduate at least one semester early.

Guest Columnist Kurt Bills

It means $2,500 for students who graduate one semester early and increases to $7,500 for those who complete their studies a year early. The existing post-secondary education option is one alternative for students. This allows students an opportunity to take college courses prior to high school graduation. The program I am proposing is another tool to help our children find the course that’s right for them. The program would offer students who don’t have the PSEO program on their radar, but are still working hard and progressing rapidly

through high school, the incentive to take their skills to the next level. This is a great opportunity, and according to House research, actually saves the state money. Capital Investment I also serve on the Capital Investment Committee, and it will be interesting to see how things develop in that area this session. We face a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming two-year budget cycle, so borrowing even more money to fund projects is a delicate matter. We must first have a discussion on the definition of “capital investment.” Second, we must educate ourselves on the history of bonding (borrowing) and look to the standards that have been established by former governors and legislatures. Third, if the vote is to borrow more, See Bills, Page 10A

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2-24-11 - Dakota County Tribune Business Weekly  

2-24-11 - Dakota County Tribune Business Weekly: A weekly business news, information and communication paper serving the southern Twin Citie...