Albert Lea adopted its integration plan from Austin

Published 12:35 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Austin Success Coach Chrissy DeLuna helps Neveln Elementary School second-grader Maria Miguel Felipe on a math exercise earlier this year. The Success Coach program is considered an educational success in Austin and Albert Lea, but the state integration revenue used to fund the program could be in jeopardy this legislative session. — Trey Mewes

It’s time for a Mad Minute-style math exercise in Kaia Kossman’s second-grade class.

Maria Miguel Felipe looks a bit nervous before the exercise as the class raises their arms, ready for the minute-long math quiz to begin.

The objective is to complete as many addition and subtraction problems within the time limit.

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When the exercise starts, Felipe is ready. She has some help from Chrissy DeLuna, Neveln Elementary School success coach.

DeLuna is one of 10 success coaches in Austin who help students of color integrate and succeed in school. The “success coach” program is funded through state integration revenue, which many legislators say needs changing. As legislators debate tweaking or possibly restructuring the integration revenue program, area educators are concentrating on making the most out of integration dollars.

“Success coaches have certainly been able to support a lot of parents,” said Judy Knudtson, Albert Lea Area Schools’ integration plan coordinator.

Albert Lea adopted the Success Coach program in 2009 after hearing about the work Austin’s success coaches did.

The program is one of the largest positive educational stories out of Austin in recent years, ranking high among district initiatives.

Success coaches in Austin help students new to the district succeed, whether that’s assisting a bilingual Hispanic or Sudanese student with classes, translating for parents who don’t speak English, or bringing new students and students from other countries up to speed on their lessons.

“The success coaches are viewed as very welcoming by all the groups that we’ve talked to in our community,” said Kristi Beckman, Austin’s integration coordinator. “That would be one of the biggest things that we’ve done.”

In addition, Austin uses integration funding for speakers like Naomi Tutu and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Allen Page, as well as community films, field trips, and academic opportunities like bringing Austin and Albert Lea High School students to Mankato State University for a Latino career day in engineering programs. In addition, both districts fund after school opportunities which allows more students to come together for opportunities. The goal is to give students opportunities to learn from and with each other, as well as to bring students of all walks of life together.

That’s part of the reason why Albert Lea and Austin partner with Southland, Hayfield and as part of the Southeastern Minnesota Integration Collaborative. The collaborative shares resources between districts and offers partnership opportunities like foreign language pen pals and lesson sharing. Several districts, such as Albert Lea, are voluntary partners with Austin, which was tasked by the Minnesota Department of Education in 2006 to put together an integration plan in response to the district’s increasing population of students of color.

“All of the initiatives, the partnerships have been a wonderful opportunity, as we’ve learned a lot from what Austin has been doing,” Knudtson said. “It’s a good opportunity for all of our students and their parents when we can work together with other districts.”

Yet those partnerships will be put to the test this legislative session. Republican lawmakers tried to redefine integration funding last year during the 2011 shutdown battles so integration money could be spread around the state more evenly. Twin Cities school districts, which have a larger population of students of color, receive the majority of integration funding at the moment and lawmakers say the funding program isn’t doing enough to help decrease the increasing achievement gap between white and non-white students.

“The important thing is we spend the dollars on things that work,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington and chairman of the Education Finance Committee. Garofalo and other legislators will hear from state Department of Education officials as part of the Integration Revenue Replacement Task Force on Feb. 15 to hear their proposal on how the integration revenue program should be changed.

Task force members have looked at ways to improve student achievement and forced busing, according to Garofalo. While Garofalo said Greater Minnesota could have increased funding under the new program, educators won’t hold their breath until Legislators decide what to do with the current program.

“We just don’t know what they’re going to do,” Beckman said about collaborative initiatives. “In the spirit with that, we’re going to stick with the initiatives going on right now. We’ll keep those initiatives going until we find out what’s next.”


What’s the future hold?


Population projections
County        2010*    2015    2020    2025    2030    2035
Dodge        20,087    23,470    25,110    26,510    27,740    28,800
Faribault    14,553    15,180    15,190    15,180    15,050    14,960
Freeborn    31,255    31,970    32,050    32,110    32,020    31,940
Mower       39,163    39,760    40,330    40,790    40,990    41,210
Steele         36,576    40,810    42,900    44,630    46,030    47,200
Waseca      19,136    20,070    20,400    20,690    20,760    20,850
— Minnesota State Demographic Center, figures released in 2007
* From the U.S. 2010 census


Projections for race
• The percent of Minnesota’s population that is nonwhite or Latino is projected to grow from 14 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2035.
• The numbers of Latino, black and Asian Minnesotans are projected to more than double over the next 30 years.
• The white population is projected to grow slowly and will decline in some parts of the state.
•  All regions of the state will become more racially and ethnically diverse than they are now.
— Minnesota State Demographic Center, issued June 2009


Projections for education
• Minnesota K-12 school enrollment, including both public and nonpublic, is projected to rise about 7 percent between 2008-2009 and 2018-2019.
• K-6 enrollment is projected to increase each year, with a total gain of 11 to 12 percent over 10 years.
• Enrollment in grades 7 to 12 is projected to fall until 2012-2013, and then rise slightly.
• Two alternative projections give similar results for total and public enrollments.
— Minnesota State Demographic Center, issued June 2009