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Make all of the district-run schools good schools
Make a college-bound education accessible to all

To improve and equalize the quality of instruction in district-run schools:

*Stop excessive layoffs, which contribute to high teacher turnover
The district recently cut 210 teacher positions and laid off 608 teachers
There are fewer than 1,700 full-time teacher positions in regular & Special Ed
The 608 laid off teachers laid off were hired within the past 5 years, including
153 tenured teachers (completed a 3 year probationary period with a MN school district, the probationary period is one year for teachers who completed a 3 year probationary period in another MN school district.
455 probationary (hired within past 3 years)
*Distribute probationary teachers evenly throughout the district
Probationary teachers are heavily concentrated in schools that serve low-income / high-minority neighborhoods. About 40% of test score variability in Texas schools was attributed to teacher expertise (classroom teaching experience, advanced education, scores on teacher licensing tests) in a study done by Ronald Ferguson.

*Eliminate tracking / phase out "low-ability" tracks (without "teaching to the middle'), College-bound reading skills for general student population in K-12. (We currently have a tracking system based on the assignment of K-6 students to different classrooms for reading instruction according to perceived ability.) The district's small K-8 schools (less than 400 students) can be cost effective if untracked. The district would be better able to retain and attract students by phasing out "low-ability" tracks because parents are likely to pull all of their children out of the public schools if any of them are assigned to a low-ability track in the early elementary grades.)

*Monitor effectiveness of teachers & teaching practices, with a focus on growth in math and reading, and pass rates on Minnesota Basic Standards Tests.  The district doesn't have a fair and valid process for evaluating teacher performance.  

*Repeal the current attendance policy (revert to pre-1999 policy), which pushes many students out of the district, diverts attention of the school administration from fixing the schools so that more students show up for school because they want to go to school.

    The new policy does not allow any "unexcused" absences and mandates a 95% or better attendance rate for all students. Hennepin family courts and social workers were swamped with referrals from the schools for truancy, so the schools have had to give parents and students a little more slack. Attendance rates initially went down dramatically, but bounced back up to almost what they had been. The district predicted big gains in academic performance would accompany a big improvement in attendance rates, but that didn't happen. The district also anticipated that the new policy, by itself, would push about 500 students per year out of district schools.

 I believe that the new attendance policy and the introduction of tracking in the early elementary grades were the prime factors that caused K-4 enrollment to fall by about 6,000 between October 1998 and October 1993.  The number of school age children residing in Minneapolis has changed very little since 1998.