Testimony to MN House Education Finance Committee on HF934

/ 21 March 2011

I believe school is an intensely social experience. Raising my kids in a respectful multicultural environment is what East Metro Integration District has been about. Kids can be friends with anyone, they talk with each other, they share and know one another. Their comfort with each other will make the world a better place as they take their place in it. EMID is also an environment where smaller scale makes it possible to develop practices that could transform education, if only we had the fortitude to listen to the lessons. Unfortunately, some of the most transformative practices, such as multiage looping classrooms, have already been sacrificed on the alter of state standards and testing. Even our year-round calendar, which teachers and parents know prevents the summer “backslide” and keeps kids engaged all year long in learning, is under stress because it actually puts our kids at a disadvantage when they participate in statewide standardized tests (administered during a calendar window rather than a student-contact-days window).

Focussing solely on the achievement gap misses much of what happens in a school. EMID serves not only the kids in our schools, but educates the educators in 10 districts. Integration funds carve out an important space for innovation, for testing new ideas while giving kids the confidence and space to know one another and each others cultures.

But while this bill renames integration to innovation, it will significantly harm EMIDs ability to do this vital work. I sit on our site council, I attend our board meeting, I know how dependent we are on the foresight and understanding of this committee. We need your support, I hope we get it.

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