105 Peavey Rd, Ste 116
Chaska, MN 55318
May 2, 2002
This poignant letter came to us after MREdCoPAC sent out a press release to local papers identifying which Senators voted to keep the Profile of Learning. The effort to repeal the Profile passed overwhelmingly in the Minnesota House on April 18th, and it failed on a tie vote of 33 to 33 in the Senate on April 22nd.
Note especially this freshman's excellent description of integrated math. Integrated math is replacing traditional math in most schools across the state because it meets the requirement of the Profile of Learning "high standards," a misnomer for the dumbed down curriculum. The core curriculum theme of "working in groups" has replaced the traditional curriculum goal of "proficiency in math calculation." The so-called "world class standards" are not high academic standards, but rather, training students in behavior patterns that are useful to business.
Under the new "standards" requirements, all students must meet the same outcome. That outcome must be low enough so that the "achievement gap" is eliminated. Resources must be focused on identical outcomes for all. There is little place for high achievers.
St. Paul is one of the many Minnesota districts implementing the Small Learning Communities (See "Decoding St. Paul's 'Education Blueprint.'") Small Learning Communities force middle school students into a career pathway at least by the 8th grade. Each district schools is aligned with specific career paths. Students must enroll in a high school based on the career path they are matched with. (See "Career Clusters Will Transform Secondary Schools to Job Training Centers.)
Small Learning Communities are being implemented across the country, restructuring the entire purpose of education, driven by federal grant money ("No Child Left Behind") and by private foundation money (Gates, Carnegie, Bush and McKnight Foundations, to name a few). State legislatures, our access to self-government, are effectively bypassed in this process of redefining education.
Problematic Profile of Learning
I am a freshman at Central High School in St. Paul and I read about Maple River Education PAC in the Grand Gazette. I went to your website and I have to agree with everything written there about the new "goals" for education in St. Paul. Senator Wellstone came to Central about a month ago, and these issues were brought up when he asked students to come up to a microphone and say what they think about education. Most students at Central, as well as teachers, think that Graduation Standards are a horrible idea. All it is is extra work for us on top of the work already assigned to us. It is an awful way of evaluating us. They should stick with the grading rubric. Also, if we are passing a class, doing a grad standard isn't going to matter. The only thing it does is that kids who are failing have the opportunity to get credit even without being in class all year by doing a project. Or not doing it and making it up, as often happens. One kid at Central was saying exactly what you are, that Grad Standards are lowering the top students to the level of the below average kids, and that is definitely true.
It seems ridiculous to put high school kids into groups based on what they think they will do as a career. Most of my friends don't really know what they want to study, and although I have some idea of my interests, I don't know exactly what career I might want! We are in high school. Shouldn't they be telling us to enjoy our youth and get the best liberal arts education so that we can actually figure out what we even enjoy? Instead they want to split us up into career groups where we might be separated from our friends so that we can be in an individualized environment. All that would do is lower our feeling of security, instead of increasing it.
A prime example of the busywork and lowering of standards is Integrated Math, which is currently the only math option for us freshmen at Central. All it is is busywork given to us on a calendar with a teacher who is in love with it. The only reason that the teachers love it is because they don't have to teach. The people who get it are in groups with those who don't get it and they teach them. We do the work and homework and take a test. Then we do the grad standard projects. But the math itself is more of essay questions on why doing the problem would be important and why you're doing it, instead of actually doing the problem itself. It's not math. It probably is good for those kids who are having trouble in math, but not for those who would be better off in traditional math. They need to offer both.
The biggest problem for schools right now is lack of money. Supposedly we will get money for implementing SLC but it will probably cost us more. Many teachers at Central are being cut this year because SPPS can't pay them. One of them is my English teacher who is a great teacher who adds a lot of energy to our class. One of my fears is that Latin will be cut next year or before I graduate. I take Latin and I have a great teacher. Because so few people take Latin for their foreign language, we have an extremely individualized program that's great. We often discuss important issues and ways to improve the school as well as translating. It would be awful to lose great programs like that and like music just so that the government can meddle in our education.
I don't know if there's anything that I just said that helps you at all. I just wanted to let you know that I and many other students, teachers, and parents out there agree with what you say and what you want to do.*******
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