What’s Plan B for educating Minnesota kids? (5×8 – 11/27/12)

What to do with kids who can’t, Lennon’s confirmation, Sandy’s disaster karma, the have-nots, and the jokes of holiday shopping.


For several years, Minnesota officials have wrestled with the fact a substantial number of Minnesota kids aren’t good enough at math to graduate from high school. For several years, schools have graduated the kids anyway because getting tough and adhering to the standards would mean a substantial number of Minnesota kids wouldn’t graduate, even though they get additional chances to pass the reading and math tests. A student needs to flunk the test three times not to graduate.

A solution, the Star Tribune reports today, has been found by a panel of educators: Drop the tests.

It’s not as if the Legislature hasn’t tackled this before. In 2009, it pushed the “we really mean it this time” date for enforcing the test back to 2015.

Rep. Carlos Mariani told the paper the tests were too much involved in judging the teacher. “We’re trying to find a more intelligent way to do it, knowing that some students don’t test well, which doesn’t mean that they’re not proficient,” he told the newspaper.

But some employers and some colleges disagree. Many of them say kids don’t have the reading/writing skills they need and, in college at least, they’re spending the early part of the academic career teaching the students what they should’ve learned in high school.

The curmudgeonly reaction to all of this: “What’s the matter with these kids today?” But we’re not talking about simple addition here. When’s the last time you needed to know how to figure out the prism of a cylinder to get through a day, let alone graduate from high school?

Or this…


Or this one from a 2009 MPR story from Tom Weber:

A rabbit population grew in the following pattern…2,4,8,16…If all the rabbits live and the pattern continues, how many rabbits will be in the 8th generation? (Answer at bottom of page)

A) 32

B) 128

C) 256

D) 512

The answer is “C” and, no, I don’t know the formula that led to this answer and I don’t need to. I write words for a living. Maybe the kid in my 11th grade class who went on to become an engineer doesn’t know what crime is committed when one splits an infinitive. I do.

All of this gets back to how we educate students in the first place. Do they all need to know the same things? Or can there be some specialization in recognition of the skills they’ll actually need? What’s the answer here?

Oh, and while you’re thinking about that, here are some more samples.

Related math: What’s the chance you’ll win the record Powerball jackpot? It’s a trick question: The answer is “zero.” Unless you couldn’t pass the math grad standards test.


A Detroit Lakes teenager has been denied confirmation because he posted on Facebook that he supports gay marriage. His parents have been denied Communion. Now, Forum Communications reports, the family of Lennon Cihak is considering an offer from a Chicago Catholic splinter group — the Evangelical Catholic Church.

Wilkowski describes the Evangelical Catholic Church as “separate but equal” to the traditional Roman Catholic Church. “We are a validly consecrated Catholic faith community,” he said. “We do have some pastoral differences between the Roman Church and ours.”

One difference is that priests can marry. Another is that women can become priests. The church also offers a quicker path to annulments after a divorce – a process that Wilkowski said can take up to 10 years in the traditional church, leaving members in limbo.

More religion: Dorothy Day as saint? The Catholic Left picks up an ally.


If your neighborhood doesn’t want to be part of the area that surrounds it, should you expect any help when disaster strikes? It’s a question that appears to be unique to New York where a gated community was wiped out by Hurricane Sandy’s seas and now residents say they can’t rebuild on their own. The neighborhood’s reaction? Tough.

“They seclude themselves,” one man on Coney Island tells the New York Times. “We don’t have problems with Sea Gate, but they put their noses down at us. We get treated like we’re second class, just because they live in houses and we live in the projects and we rent. They say they need assistance and, fine, maybe they do need assistance. But they have insurance on their houses. We don’t have insurance. We don’t have much out here.”

Breezy Point, the poster child for the disaster — it’s where more than 100 homes burned — is also a gated community, the Times says.


“There’s been plenty written over the years about poor wages and working conditions in Asian countries, such as China, that produce cheap consumer products for American retailers like Walmart,” Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman writes. “But some questionable labor conditions exist right here at home, where those imported goods are funneled into the domestic supply chain. ”

He takes an inside look at making ends meet on $10 an hour.


I am required by FCC law to write something about holiday shopping. So… here:

And here’s how they put it together.

Here’s a special NewsCut shopping tip: Unless you really want to, don’t wear your red sports shirt with your khaki slacks when you go to Target.

Bonus I: A man goes to work every day catching ticks. (NPR)

Bonus II: Should schools be allowed to electronically track students? It’s about a court case in Texas (Tech Dirt)

Bonus III: What makes you happy?


Some Republicans who signed a pledge not to raise taxes are showing signs of being willing to raise taxes after all. Grover Norquist, the organizer of the pledge effort, is denouncing them for “impure thoughts” and says their pledge is still binding, no matter how long ago they signed it. Today’s Question: What do you think of the campaign to get politicians to promise they will never raise taxes?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Inside Obama’s high-tech campaign.

Second hour: Should food be considered and treated like a drug?

Third hour: Four-time Grammy nominee and former Minneapolis resident Karrin Allyson plays from her latest album, Round Midnight, and discuss her decades on the road as a jazz musician.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Jeffrey Toobin at JFK Library on “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – As a ballot issue, pot won this year. Voters in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational use of marijuana. What hasn’t been decided, however, is a medical issue. How harmful is smoking or eating weed?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Ramsey County is expected to sign off on a deal to buy the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site at a meeting this morning. It’s the largest tract of undeveloped land in the Twin Cities and once eyed for a Vikings stadium. Ramsey County plans to clean up the polluted site to prepare it for redevelopment. MPR’s Tim Nelson will report.

Student need for financial aid is up, and university revenues are down. That adds up to schools rethinking how much — if any — tuition assistance they can provide. Even schools with deep pockets now say it’s getting harder to help students who need financial aid the most. NPR will report on how colleges contend with unsustainable generosity.