While I share the concern that many parents express about the lack of literacy of their children ("Mpls. literacy gap splits school board," front page, Nov. 1), I believe much of their criticism of the curriculum is misplaced. What does it say about a parent that he or she has apparently been so indifferent about their child's education for the first six years of their life that the parent expects a stranger to teach their child to read?
My parents chose not to introduce a television into our home and instead stocked it with books. They read to us daily, and when my siblings and I learned to read (by nothing more complicated than being read to), we read to the younger children. All eight of us entered first grade as proficient readers, and at least the three oldest were advanced early to higher grades because most of what first-graders did was centered around learning to read. When my wife and I had preschool-age children, we did the same. Most Saturdays we took our boys to the library and exchanged the three grocery sacks of books from last week's reading for three more. We were told that, as first-graders, our sons were reading at a sixth-grade level.
It's really quite simple, and it's never too late to start: Read to your children instead of parking them in front of a television or a game box or similar device. Their teachers will be impressed and grateful to you, and your children might even thank you.
Justin Doyle, St. Cloud
Now that we have all expressed our frustration over the "stubborn achievement gap" in Minneapolis Public Schools, is it finally time to take effective action on this issue? Why continue to criticize the school system and its employees when studies show clearly that the gap begins as early as 3 years of age? The achievement gap didn't start in the schools, and it's apparent that it can't be fixed there either. It's time to move upstream to provide the help our young children and their families need and deserve.
As pediatricians and educators, we know that the period from birth to 3 years provides the most rapid brain development. The infant brain is primed to form millions of new connections each day simply by interacting with an adult who talks, reads, sings and plays back-and-forth games in a calm, safe environment. Parents are the first and best teachers followed by caregivers in high-quality child care.
Brain connections are strengthened with each interaction while those that go unused are eliminated or pruned away as the brain readies itself for what is to come. Infants and toddlers are learning how to learn and by age 3, differences in skills, in language development and interest in learning can be measured. These differences persist for many and are hard to remedy when kids reach kindergarten.
All parents want to nurture and care for their young children but circumstances like demanding work schedules with brief or no parental leave, maternal depression, homelessness, poverty and food insecurity can prevent them from doing so. Child care that is inaccessible, unaffordable or nonexistent compounds the problem especially during the pandemic. Children from low-income families and families of color are at increased risk for all of these factors.
Recent research shows that conditions leading to the learning gap begin at birth if not before. Enrichment for parents of young children must begin at birth also if we really intend to make a difference. Why should public funding for education begin after the most rapid period of brain development has passed? Investing in our young families during the crucial first three years of life will provide tremendous benefits to our city and will finally begin to close the learning gap. It can be the "magic bullet" that Aimee Fearing, district senior academic officer, is seeking.
Mary Meland, Minneapolis; Dale Dobrin, Minnetonka; Ada Alden, Plymouth, Roger Sheldon, Golden Valley
The writers are members of Doctors for Early Childhood.
Recent reporting has covered our organizing efforts around literacy outcomes in MPS and pressure faced by Superintendent Ed Graff. We wanted to ground readers in the reality MPS and districts like it are facing. Less than 50% of MPS students read at grade level; a recent report submitted by MPS to the Department of Education identified 42% of K-3 students as having "characteristics of dyslexia." When you disaggregate these data, the disparities being experienced by students of color are significant and long-standing — half of Black and Native American MPS students are identified as "falling behind" in reading, students not proficient and not making a year's worth of growth. And in the rush to blame all of it on poverty or parents, the district abdicated its role in training teachers, providing evidence-based instruction to all students, and effective supports to those struggling to read. Many districts are using federal dollars to invest in evidence-based curricula, interventions and training for teachers in the science of reading. MPS has no plans to do these things and their plans for spending ESSER dollars includes just 1% on literacy-specific initiatives.
These literacy data from MPS don't reflect a student "achievement gap" but rather serve as an account of the tremendous educational debt owed to students of color. This debt existed before Graff's tenure, but it has increased, and there remains no plan to address it. We will continue centering the students of Minneapolis and the educational debt owed to them while we push for action and accountability at the district.
Sara Spafford Freeman, Khulia Pringle, David Weingartner, Maria Cisneros, Tonya Draughn, Elijah Norris, Minneapolis
The writers are members of MPS Academics Advocacy Group.
If these metals are so valuable, why are we tossing them out?
I will be much more inclined to support new mining in northern Minnesota (and elsewhere) when the metals we need to maintain our lifestyles have been thoroughly reclaimed or diverted from our country's landfills and trash piles. If we then come up short, we can talk about how to make up the shortfall in a manner that protects the global environment ("Metals must come from somewhere," Readers Write, Oct. 28). Some might argue that such recycling is too expensive. I disagree: We are not building in the downstream costs of environmental degradation when we price new, extracted raw materials. Nor are we considering the loss of use of those materials as we bury and forget them.
Jonathan Riehle, Minneapolis
The Biden administration has many good reasons to resume the required study (nixed by former President Donald Trump) on the economic viability and environmental risks of Twin Metal's proposed copper mine near the Boundary Waters:
- Twin Metals claims ("Assault on mining harms Minn., America," Opinion Exchange, Nov. 1) this is the "world's largest" undeveloped deposit. But it contains very low-grade ore. Its copper concentration (0.58%) falls below the average of operating mines (whose deposits range up to 6%). There's no bonanza here. Even at its proposed peak production, the Twin Metals mine would produce just 0.27% of the global copper supply.
- Twin Metals claims this copper is critical for our green-energy future. But in the past 15 years, U.S. copper demand has dropped by half. Demand is so low that we export much of our recycled copper (mostly to China, where the copper from Twin Metals' Chilean parent company currently goes). Only a third of copper used in the U.S. is from recycled sources. In Europe, it's nearly half. If the U.S. increased to just 50%, that alone would provide many times the copper that could be mined in Minnesota.
- Twin Metals claims this copper is needed to "combat the climate crisis." But lots of rock would need to be mined and crushed for this poor ore body to produce. That means Twin Metals will consume lots of electricity — as much as the city of Duluth by one projection. That means lots of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Twin Metals claims this mine will "offer hundreds of jobs." But new mines are increasingly automated. Some are now fully robotic with driverless trucks and equipment. In fact, that's the biggest trend in the industry. Twin Metals acknowledges it would take at least another decade to permit this mine. How many mining jobs will be around then in an industry banking on an automated future? And how many of our Ely High School graduates of 2032 will want to spend their careers thousands of feet underground?
Paul Schurke, Ely, Minn.
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