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Region Nine’s Renewable Energy Task Force will be hosting a workshop on December 13 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Minnesota Valley Room at the Intergovernmental Center in Mankato, MN.
The first half of the meeting will focus on the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program, which is a financial tool to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in public facilities. Lindsay Wimmer, the GESP Outreach Coordinator from Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) will head the discussion.
The second half of the meeting will focus on the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which is a innovative way to finance energy efficiency and rewnewable energy upgrades to buildings. Bruce Barnum the Field Representative for the Southern Minnesota Office of the United States Senator Al Franken and Pete Klein the Vice President of Finance for the St. Paul Port Authority will lead the discussion.
If you are interested in attending and have not RSVP’ed please contact Danielle Walchuk at email@example.com.
Yesterday, Minnesota Management and Budget announced a projected budget surplus of $1.08 billion for the current biennium (fiscal years 2014-15).
The first $246 million of the surplus will be used to pay back the remaining school shift in full thanks to an accelerated repayment plan in the new state budget, leaving a balance of $825 million.
This is great news for our students, schools, and Minnesota’s economy. It shows we are committed to balancing the budget in a pay as you go fashion to put our state on sound fiscal footing. Paying back the school shift was a top priority of mine and I’m pleased we got the job done.
The Budget and Economic Forecast contained good news about the Minnesota economy projecting stronger employment and income growth.
Our Northfield Bridge Square straw poll is ready! It only takes 5 minutes to complete, unless of course, you choose to include comments with it.
For rationale and background, see the Nov. 20 blog post: Help design the Bridge Square straw poll.
And be sure to either attend the Dec. 9th Open House or the Dec. 11 web conference.
On Tuesday night, the City Council held the first public hearing on the Sixth St Reconstruction project. Assistant Public Works Director/Assistant City Engineer Brian Erickson made a brief presentation (PDF) and then both he and Joe Stapf, Public Works Director/City Engineer took questions from the Council.
Four residents spoke at the public hearing: Neil Lutsky, Liz Reppe, Vern Ripley, Ann Maas.
Many others gathered in the hallway outside Council chambers afterwards to chat with each other and Brian.
Next week in St. Paul there will a hearing on pollinators on Monday, December 9, 2013, at 1:00 PM in Room 5 of the State Office Building. Much has been written about neonicotinoid insecticides and the possible risk to pollinators, including bees and monarch butterflies.
The 2013 Minnesota Legislature passed H.F. 976 which included directives that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture develop pollinator habitat Best Management Practices (and submit to the legislature a Pollinator Report. More information is available at the MDA’s website.
We’ll have details later this week but Save these Dates!
- Bridge Square Open House #2, Dec 9, 5:30-7:30 PM, Archer House
- Live Web Conference, Dec 11, 7-8:30 PM
Update Dec. 5: Here’s the press release that was emailed to several dozen ‘stakeholders’ this morning:
Update Dec. 6: In Wednesday’s Northfield News: The future of Northfield’s Bridge Square will be topic of second open house by Grace Webb.
This second open house will be more intensive, said Slack. Residents will learn more about urban design analysis and specific factors that influence how Bridge Square can be modified. Attendees will also have the chance to further share their hopes for the future of Bridge Square and how they want it to be a part of Northfield.
“We’re at the point where we’re trying to determine what the next step is,” Slack said, adding that the hope now is to come up with a firm vision for the square before presenting conceptual plans in January 2014.
On Thursday, November 21, the Northfield School Board met in a work session to begin the process of addressing short- and long-term demographic issues and facilities needs within the district. The Board was presented with a packet of data on student achievement and enrollments in the district, and with a recommendation for addressing the need for additional kindergarten classroom space brought about by the introduction of universal free all-day kindergarten in the fall of 2014.
In this post, I want to look at some of the data presented at that work session. I have taken some of the raw numbers and presented them in color-coded graphs, which I hope will aid in visualizing the data. I won’t at this time offer any thoughts about possible next steps, or address the short-term issue of making space for all-day kindergarten. Those will be topics for future posts.
Note that each graph or table below can be clicked to enlarge. The original data packed presented to the Board at the November 21 meeting can be found here.
One of the salient facts that emerged from the data is that over the past decade there has been a significant shift in enrollment in the elementary schools. In 2005-2006, Bridgewater had the largest enrollment (613 students) and Sibley had the smallest enrollment (433 students). In 2013-2014, Sibley has the largest enrollment (26 more students than Bridgewater).
This graph (fig. 1) shows the change in enrollments in the three elementary schools, as a percentage of the total elementary enrollment in the district, in 2005-2006 and in 2013-2014. The percentages are listed in the table (fig. 2). The total elementary enrollment in 2005-2006 was 1583 students; in 2013-2014, the total elementary enrollment is 1612 students.
Without taking into consideration the racial and socioeconomic profile of each school, the enrollments would appear more balanced in 2013-2014 than in 2005-2006. In the earlier year, there was an 11.37% difference between the highest and lowest enrollment schools. In 2013-2014, there is only a 6.7% difference.
What accounts for these changes? For one thing, the community as a whole has grown. At the time of the 2000 census, the population of Northfield was 17,000. In 2010, it was 20,000. It would be interesting to know what the population growth has been in each of the three elementary attendance areas in the past decade. It is clear, however, that during this time, the Hispanic/Latino population in Northfield has increased from 5.7% of the total population in 2000 to 8.4% in 2010, and that much of this population is located in the Greenvale Park attendance area.
Between 2000 and 2013, the LINK choice program at Greenvale Park was discontinued; kindergarten classes were shifted from Longfellow Elementary to the neighborhood schools; and the Compañeros Program was shifted from being offered exclusively at Bridgewater, to being offered at both Bridgewater and Greenvale Park, to being offered in all three elementary schools. Meanwhile, Prairie Creek Community School moved from being a private, tuition-based school to a free public charter school in 2002, and expanded its capacity with a new addition in 2009.
All of these factors are sure to have contributed to the shifting enrollments in the three elementary schools.
The Impact on Greenvale Park Elementary
The effects on Greenvale Park Elementary have been the most dramatic. English language learners (ELL) account for 22.9% of the population at Greenvale Park, and 42.2% of Greenvale Park students qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch. Greenvale Park has far more Latino students with limited English proficiency and a far higher rate of poverty than the rest of the district.
At the same time, Prairie Creek’s conversion from a private to a public school has had a disproportionate impact on Greenvale Park, as can be seen from the graphs below. Figure 3 shows the loss to the three elementary schools through open enrollment and intradistrict transfer (transfer from one elementary school to another within the district), and figure 4 shows the total loss to the district through open enrollment from the elementary schools.
46% of the loss to the district through open enrollment is from Greenvale Park, and 40% of the loss from Greenvale Park is to Prairie Creek. Intradistrict transfer only accounts for the loss of 12 students from Greenvale Park, while 82 students are lost to Prairie Creek from Greenvale Park. (Note that in the two graphs below, Greenvale Park is in blue, Sibley is red, and Bridgewater is green.)
Three High Quality Elementary Schools
It is clear, however, that students who are white and do not fall into one of various subgroups (ELL, Special Education, Free and Reduced Price Lunch) attain the same levels of academic achievement at all three elementary schools. In fact, white, non-subgroup students at Greenvale Park slightly outperformed those students at Sibley on the 2013 MCA reading test (fig. 5). All three elementary schools are near or above the district average and well above the state average.
One question facing the Board is whether something should be done to balance the levels of ELL students and of poverty across the elementary schools, so that Greenvale Park doesn’t continue to have the highest concentration of students in these categories. Can the elementary schools become more integrated, and is greater integration something the district should pursue? How will the district respond to continued population growth and demographic changes?
These are some of the data and some of the questions the Board began to dig into on November 21. The implications of this data for the future direction of the district will be the focus of ongoing discussions.
Last Thursday, I gave a short presentation (PDF) on the planned Sixth Street Reconstruction Project to the Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB). Of primary interest for the PRAB was our staff recommendation that a cul-de-sac be installed at the east end into Old Memorial Park. Page 8 of the meeting packet included this information:
The Park and Recreation Advisory Board is being asked to provide comments regarding the 2014 Street Reconstruction Project (STRT2014-A16), particularly as it impacts the western end of Old Memorial Field. These comments would be included as part of the upcoming public hearing on the improvement (December 3, 2013) and provided to the City Council.
As part of the 2014 – 2018 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) staff has recommended the reconstruction of Sixth Street from Washington Street east to the dead end at Old Memorial Field. The street width is 40’; however, based on the functional classification of the street, staff is proposing to narrow it to 32’. Sixth Street currently dead ends in a manner that makes turning around difficult for emergency vehicles, residents, garbage trucks and snow removal equipment. As a result, staff is reviewing the potential for constructing a cul-de-sac at the eastern end of Sixth Street. The cul-de-sac would have a radius of 40’ and would primarily be constructed on the park property. As with the First Street project which was constructed in 2009, the cul-de-sac construction would be funded as part of the project.
The street layout could be retained with no cul-de-sac; however, standard City practice has been to construct a cul-de-sac at a dead during reconstruction projects. The narrow street would also increase the difficulty for people trying to turn around at the dead end. Cul-de-sac construction has been done in the past on projects such as First Street (Way Park) and at the west end of Second Street. Additionally, as new developments are constructed any dead end streets are required to have a temporary cul-de-sac construction so that traffic has the ability to easily turn around.
The construction of cul-de-sac would be performed as part of the reconstruction project and be funded by a combination of special assessments, enterprise funds, bonding and municipal state aid. No Park Funds will be used for the construction.
The planning process for this project has begun and the City Council has accepted a feasibility report and called for a public hearing on the improvement, which will be held on December 3. Then on January 7, 2014, the Council will be requested to order the improvement and preparation of the plans and specifications. At that time all the design parameters will be set and any changes will be difficult to consider or include.
After my presentation, some of the PRAB members provided comments regarding the proposed design. Here are my notes of their comments, which may or may not be 100% accurate!
- Concerns about the narrowing of the street from 40 feet to 32 feet in width and what that would do to potential bike lanes along Sixth Street. It was felt that children could more safely bike along Sixth Street to get to the park trail and thus to the outdoor pool.
- Concerns about the view/aesthetics that the construction of the cul-de-sac in the park would present.
- The alignment of the cul-de-sac, with the possibility of adjusting its location.
- Questions about the possibility of reducing the radius of the cul-de-sac from 40 feet to a smaller length.
Griff Wigley and I attended the Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) meeting last Thursday night. Similar to the meeting with the HPC, our purpose in presenting to the PRAB was to determine if there are any specific elements of Bridge Square that should be maintained in the future design and what ideas/thoughts Board members have had about design possibilities for the Square. There was a very good conversation that ensued, with the following some of the ideas/ thoughts that we heard:
- Bridge Square needs to be expanded to accommodate current and future uses. Consider closing off the adjacent streets
- Future use of the post office needs to be considered and the parking lot for the post office is underutilized
- Need stronger connection to the River. Consider access across the river at or near the dam
- Bridge Square needs to be flexible in the future design. Closing off or modifying the current street pattern might hinder flexibility
- Bridge Square serves many purposes
- Consider winter uses and a four season design
- Bridge Square needs to be the central entertainment space; need more electrical hook-ups, need defined space for tents, location for stage, etc.
- Bridge Square needs to connect better to non-motorized transportation modes and routes within the Downtown. Also needs to make a stronger link along the riverfront and to Ames Park
- Current Bridge Square design does not invite you in. Design should “pull you in”
- Current design has no focus. Fountain takes up core area in the middle of the square.
- Need more flexible seating
- Need to better understand future plans for Malt O Meal
Last week, I attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Northfield Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) , along with my “Concept for a future Bridge Square” design team colleagues, Marcia Klopf and Griff Wigley, and some members of the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force (MSTF).
The purpose of our presentation to the HPC was to define and discuss what aspects of the current Bridge Square are considered historic and contribute to the overall Northfield Historic Commercial District. There was a very good discussion with the HPC that resulted in the following items being identified as critical components of the design that should be preserved:
- Protect the Open Space and flexibility,
- Respect the historic Edges of the square
- Preserve the Circulation and access to Bridge Square
There was also much discussion about the “period of significance” for the Square. The National Park Service (NPS) website for the Northfield Commercial Historic District had a time frame of 1850-1924 and the original application for the registration of the Historic District identifies 1870s to the 1970s.
Ultimately the HPC made a motion to identify the “period of significance” from 1856 to 2014. This motion was approved unanimously by the HPC.
The Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) agenda last night included an update on the 6th St. Reconstruction project by Assistant Public Works Director/City Engineer Brian Erickson. Next week, Brian will blog about the meeting.
PRAB members present: Tyler Burkart, Grace Clark, Dale Gehring, David Hvistendahl, Nathan Knutson, Neil Lutsky, and Mel Miller.
The Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) agenda on Thursday night included an update on the Bridge Square planning process with project consultant John Slack. PRAB members present: Tyler Burkart, Grace Clark, Dale Gehring, David Hvistendahl, Nathan Knutson, Neil Lutsky, and Mel Miller. Assistant Public Works Director/City Engineer Brian Erickson was there as the PRAB staff liaison, as was Allison Watkins, Recreation Manager.
John Slack will blog about the meeting early next week.
The Northfield Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) carved out a large portion of their agenda yesterday to discuss the Bridge Square project with consultant John Slack, intern Marcia Klopf, and three members of the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force, Ross Currier, Hayes Scriven, and Bob Will. HPC member Steve Edwins is also on the Streetscape Task Force.
Other HPC members present: Peter Carlson, Clifford Clark, Robert Craig, and Steve Wilmot. Community Development Coordinator Michele Merxbauer was there as the HPC staff liaison.
See pages 4-19 of the HPC Nov. 21 meeting packet for materials on the agenda item titled Review of enabling ordinance and Bridge Square project, including a memo from legal counsel Chris Hood.
John Slack will blog about the meeting early next week.
On the page for the Sixth St. Reconstruction Project Process schedule, the PDF outlines the purpose for the Dec. 3 public hearing:
The purpose of this hearing is for the City Council to discuss a specific local improvement before ordering it done. The Council considers all the information in the Feasibility Report and any other information necessary for Council deliberation.
At the Improvement Hearing interested persons may voice their concerns, whether or not they are in the proposed assessment area. A reasonable estimate of the total amount to be assessed and a description of the methodology used to calculate individual assessments for affected parcels must be available at the hearing. If the Council rejects the project, it may not reconsider that same project unless another hearing is held following the required notice.
Notice of the public hearing will be sent via USPS mail to affected residents on Nov. 22.
The packet (pages 124-131) for last night’s Northfield City Council meeting included a request to accept the Sixth St Reconstruction Feasibility Report (PDF) and set Dec. 3 for the public hearing. Both were approved as part of the consent agenda.
The Feasibility Report was authored by Assistant Public Works Director/City Engineer Brian Erickson. It begins:
This report examines the proposed street and utility improvements including water main, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, curb & gutter, street and sidewalk construction as well as any associated improvements that may be required in the boulevard for the 2014 Street Reconstruction Project.
The scope of work includes complete, full-depth reconstruction of Sixth Street between Washington Street and the East Dead End at Memorial Field (5 blocks), College Street from Fifth Street to Seventh Street (2 blocks), Winona Street from Sixth Street to Seventh Street (1 block), and Nevada Street from Fifth Street to Seventh Street (2 blocks).
One way to gather some information and get people engaged about an issue is to conduct a straw poll, an informal unscientific survey of those who ‘show up.’ One common type of straw poll is to ask for a show of hands at a face-to-face meeting, e.g.,
- How many of you are happy with how the election turned out?
- Who does NOT have a cell phone that’s set to mute?
- Who thinks the Vikings will finish in last place in their division this year?
As people in the room see each others hands go up and down, it sets the expectation that in a public setting, one is expected to ‘weigh in.’ It helps get people more engaged, rather than just being passive listeners. The activity gives the presenters a little information about their audience.
Online straw polls are similar but have some advantages: people can complete them anytime of the night or day; the polls can be more in-depth and people can take as much time as they need to fill them out; those reluctant to weigh publicly have a degree of anonymity; results are more easily compiled, etc.
So here’s my first first draft of a Bridge Square straw poll, designed to get people thinking while collecting some data and opinions.
Please critique my efforts and make suggestions on what else should be included.
Attach a comment to this blog post.
Amanda Ripley. The Smartest Kids in the World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. 306 pp. (199 pp. main text). Hardcover. $28.On December 3, the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) will release the results of the 2012 PISA test, which ranks countries based on the performance of 15-year olds around the world on assessment of reading, mathematics, and science skills. When the test was last administered in 2009, U.S. students ranked 17th overall, and a below-average 25th in math. At the top of the list were Shanghai, Korea, and Finland.
The following school year, 2010-2011, journalist Amanda Ripley, a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, set out to discover how Korea and Finland had become educational powerhouses while the United States, despite a decade of educational reform under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, still languished in the middle of the pack. To tell her story, she enlisted three American exchange students bound for Finland, Korea, and Poland, and used their experiences to contrast the educational systems in their host countries and back home in the United States. The story was different in each country, but Ripley came to the conclusion that what each of the educational powerhouses shared was a commitment to academic rigor.
The educational powerhouses have rigorous teacher training programs. All students in these elite countries are required to pass a challenging exam to graduate from secondary school. Students are characterized by an intense drive to succeed. Both teachers and students take learning seriously.
In Finland, where her informant Kim spends a year as an AFS exchange student, Ripley finds much higher standards for teacher training than in the United States, much greater respect for teaching as a profession, and higher compensation for the teachers themselves. In contrast, she offers the example of Kim’s math teacher back home in Oklahoma, who didn’t major in math in college and became a teacher so that he could coach high school football. Ripley concludes that in the United States, the obsession with sports, classroom technology, and the cultivation of self-esteem distract from what should be the core focus on educating students to a high academic standard.
Ripley returns to the subject of high school sports in a recent piece in The Atlantic, “The Case Against High School Sports.” In that article, she focuses on a school district in Texas that was able to boost its academic performance after it eliminated its athletic programs. In a reponse to Ripley’s article, David Cutler takes her to task for “expecting readers to go along with sweeping generalizations based on a single case study.” In The Smartest Kids in the World, the focus on the experience of her three exchange students—Kim from Oklahoma in Finland, Eric from Minnesota in Korea, and Tom from Pennsylvania in Poland—gives the book that same feeling of presenting generalizations based on limited case studies.
For example, she talks about “the stoner kid” that Kim encounters in her Finnish school. She reports Kim’s surprise that “stoners” even existed in Finland, and that, unlike “stoners” back home in Oklahoma, this Finnish “stoner” was “a model student.” The lesson that Ripley draws from this is that all students in Finland, even the stoners, were more serious about education than American students. But basing her conclusion on the stereotypical responses of a sixteen-year old exchange student doesn’t exactly make for a convincing argument. She excels at anecdote, but falls short when it comes to analysis.
Ripley has been roundly criticized for relying exclusively on data from the PISA, which doesn’t account for the relative levels of poverty in the countries whose students are being tested. According to a report of a study of PISA scores conducted at Stanford University: “Based on their analysis, the co-authors found that average U.S. scores in reading and math on the PISA are low partly because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students comes from disadvantaged social class groups, whose performance is relatively low in every country.” If the effects of socioeconomic inequality were factored into the data, the United States would join the ranks of educational powerhouses. The Stanford study, co-authored by Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein, also indicated that the achievement gap is smaller in the United States than in “similar post-industrial countries,” and that the achievement of socioeconomically disadvantaged students has been rising significantly over time, while it has been falling in countries like Finland and Korea.
According to another analysis of 2009 PISA data, when schools in America with a lower than 10% poverty rate were compared to schools in Finland, the U.S. outranked Finland by 15 percentage points. The problem is that, while the overall rate of child poverty is about 3.5% in Finland and about 10% in South Korea, it’s about 23% in the United States. If we want to be in the same league as Finland and South Korea, we need to reduce poverty. That’s the most significant step we can take in school reform.Child poverty rates in OECD countries. From the Washington Post.
But Ripley largely ignores the issue of poverty, except to say that Poland, with a poverty rate comparable to that of the United States, achieves comparable educational results.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Korea (which doesn’t report its poverty data) outranks the United States is that most of the learning takes place in after-hours for-profit tutoring and test preparation centers called “hagwons.” Such centers, with their high fees, would be out of reach for less affluent students. In South Korea, the culture seems to promote intense, even suicidal stress among students prepping for the high-stakes graduation and college entrance exam—but even Ripley admits that many Korean students burn out once they get to college. The system doesn’t appear to foster a life-long love of learning.
Ripley is an engaging writer who easily carries the reader along with her anecdotes and her unfeigned passion for education, and there’s a lot that she gets right. Yes, it’s important for parents to read to their children. Yes, a good teacher is more important than an interactive whiteboard.
But Ripley, with her love of the simple, defining anecdote, too often seems to fall for a version of the “great man theory,” believing that all it takes is a visionary leader—Andreas Schliecher, who devised the PISA; reformist Polish education minister Miroslaw Handke; reformist Rhode Island education commissioner Deborah Gist; Success Academy charter schools CEO Eva Moskowitz—to push education in the right direction. But I’m more persuaded by the model outlined by David Kirp in Improbable Scholars [see my reviewhere], who argues that it’s not the headline-grabbing reformer, like Michelle Rhee or Joel Klein, but the steady effort of a team of dedicated educators working together that yields the best results.
We had asked that students hold off on updating their school iPads to iOS 7. At this point, students can feel free to update their iPads to Apple’s latest operating system.
Students do not have to update their iPads if they do not want to do so. We just want you to know it is acceptable to do so at this point.
You can download a PDF ‘cheat sheet’ to help you with the update process, We recommend you review the document before updating as it contains good information about what to expect for the update. Thanks to Middle School Workstation Specialist Sandy Fjelde for creating the document. Again, you do not need to complete the update at this point. We recommend you make sure you have your Notability files backed up using Google Drive and/or iCloud before completing any updates.
Some students iPads may have already downloaded a copy but did not install it. If you receive a ‘verification’ error, turn the iPad off and on in order to download the latest version of iOS 7 (7.02).
As always, please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or (507) 645-3458 with any questions about the Transformational Technology initiative.
The Northfield Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) has compiled a list of locations in Northfield where students can access free WiFi. You can access the ‘bookmark’ here.
I had a chance to speak with members of the MYC in August. This is an outstanding group of young people dedicated to serving their peers and supporting them in any number of ways. Their excitement about the Transformational Technology initiative has been channeled into ensuring responsible and balanced use of technology by teens. Take a moment to read the very thoughtful op-ed piece in the Northfield News by Scout Gregerson and see what I mean!
Way to go MYC!