Herald and Journal, Jan. 14, 2002

'Small Learning Communities' forcing career decisions on young students

From Maple River Education Coalition (MREdCo)

For original sources cited in this article, and more information on the changes taking place in public education, use the links provided at the end of this article.

"The school is moving out of the business of 'schooling,' and into the business of human resource development," said Shirley McCune, State of Washington Educational Liaison, and a chief architect of the new education system.

Minneapolis eighth graders have a looming deadline of Tuesday, Jan. 15 to apply for a career pathway so they may go on to high school.

Small Learning Communities (SLCs) are being implemented in many schools across the country.

Attention parents and taxpayers from every state: Look carefully at Minneapolis and St. Paul. This is what SLCs are. The public relations campaign used to sell this restructuring to the public will not give you this information.

SLCs are first being imposed on inner city school districts that have higher concentrations of low-income, minority, immigrant and single-parent households.

These communities are especially vulnerable because they have fewer overall resources to oppose it. They are also those most in need of genuine academic-based learning, something SLCs eliminates.

Promotions of SLCs seldom acknowledge that when a student enters an SLC, they are entering a career pathway that will determine their curriculum, work-based learning and narrowed job choices for the remainder of their schooling. Unstated is that SLCs is another name for mandated School-to-Work for all.

School-to-Work is the restructuring of K-12 education entirely around jobs and certification for entry-level jobs, replacing a broad, liberal arts education that provides a foundation for a spectrum of employment opportunities and adult roles every citizen will need over a lifetime.

Pushing ahead of even St. Paul's SLCs plan, School-to-Work is being forced on every public student in the entire city in one sweep. Such is the reality behind the benign rhetoric of "small learning" environments.

Every public school student will be a member of an SLC/Career Cluster in Minneapolis by fall of 2002.

To view this shocking mandate, see the Minneapolis School District web site at: http://www.mpls.k12.mn.us/schools/school_guide/HS_program.shtml

Cynically called, "The Choice is Yours," Minneapolis SLCs mandate a career application from among a limited number of options. Think back to being 13 years old, and the application is a mind-numbing blur of programs and requirements.

No promises are made that your first or your second application will be accepted. For students in eighth grade, there is no other word for it than career tracking, and it closes off choices for students at a tender age.

It forces all students to jobs instead of learning. The instructions say: "In order for your teacher or counselor to process your application by the high school's Jan. 15 deadline, you need to complete your application prior to Jan. 15.

"Check with your teacher or counselor to find out when they need your application returned to them.

"Get appropriate teacher recommendation(s) as noted on the application. Fill in all questions accurately and neatly. Remember: several SLCs use your application as a sample of your writing skills. A teacher or counselor is required to sign your application and assemble your test results, grades, attendance and teacher recommendation(s) before sending your application to the high school by January 15.

"You will be notified by Feb. 12 if you were accepted into the SLC of your choice. If you are not accepted, you will be able to make another choice on a second choice application form.

Second choice application forms are due February 22 and students will be notified of their school program by March 1.


A school board member from another district put it this way:

"The form looks more like a college application than an entrance to a public high school. Talk about competitive selection, after an era of 'don't track for intelligence.' Did they do extensive prep prior to the application? What about the parent who can't figure the form out?

"Oh, that's right, if you can't complete the form in required manner and time, you revert to default. The district will choose. Edison High should be flush with cosmetology students."

It is time for the public to take seriously the statements of the movers and shakers in educational change: "What is happening to America today . . . is not simply a chance situation and the usual winds of change. What it amounts to is a total transformation of our society." (Speech excerpts given by Dr. McCune at the 1989 National Governor's Conference, at which Goals 2000 was first publicly introduced.)

For original sources cited in this article, and more information on the changes taking place in public education, see the links below.

Shirley McCune, State of Washington Educational Liaison

Small Learning Communities (SLCs) being implemented across the country

St. Paul's SLCs plan

Saying NO to career tracking

Minneapolis SLCs application

Maple River Education Coalition

To subscribe to this MREdCo e-mail service, mail to: mapleriv@prairie.lakes.com. Put "subscribe" in the subject line.

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