Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our Websites for School Districts

A few people have asked me why a school district would need a website like the ones we create rather than the website it already has. Here is our sample website: Anytown School.

First of all, many districts with Spanish-speaking parents and parents who speak other languages don't have websites that have the capability to display the content in another language. For example, I went to the Lincoln (Nebraska) Public Schools website. Although it has a large ESL population (more than 75 teachers), its website does not have the capability to display in languages other than English. http://www.lps.org/

Other districts have websites that allow for a Google translation of the web content. I went to the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Area School District website. I scrolled to the bottom of the page and went to the area that says "Select Language." I selected "Spanish." There are three problems with this: 1. The parents might not know that they need to scroll to the bottom. 2. The parents might not be able to read "Select Language." 3. They also might not be able to read "Spanish" and select it.

If they do get to this point, and they go to Contáctanos, they end up at this page: Contact Page for St. Cloud Schools. Imagine that you are a non-English speaking parent, who would you call on this page? I also called the number on the main page: Main Page for St. Cloud Schools. It is in English with no options for other languages. The St. Cloud Area School District has 1,100 ESL students. Google translations, by the way, are not accurate.

If you look at our sample webpage, things get much more simple. Go to http://www.anytownschool.weebly.com. If you were a parent who speaks Spanish, would you know who to call? Ary, who would receive the phone call, speaks Spanish and would handle the problem ASAP. There are also announcements at the bottom. We can also add forms and other information to this page in case it doesn't make it home with the students. We would also promote this website by calling parents so that they use it. A school district could still connect its site to our site. All of the Spanish on our site would be accurate and written by a native speaker.

Let us know if you would like a site like our sample website. It comes free with the $12/month/student plan.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two Minnesotas

Update: Minnesota has the highest Homeownership Gap in the country. I will add more to this later. For now, you can read the article: Star Tribune Article. Wake up Minnesota! The rest of the world and the United States is evolving while you stand still and get worse. Arrogance does not solve problems.

I know that I am taking a risk by stealing the idea from John Edwards. To be honest, I never liked him at all. It's a safe thing to say now. I always thought he was fake, and I guess I was right. The point is not to vilify him, however. Most people are entitled to be forgiven. Everyone makes mistakes.

He made a good point when he said that there are "Two Americas." I know that I am also taking a risk because his statement has been beat into the ground by conservatives and possibly others as well. It's old news. It's also true.

It couldn't be more true in Minnesota. Minnesota has one of the widest Achievement Gaps (source: 50can) in the country along with the highest dropout rates for Hispanics and Native Americans in the United States. Minnesota is only behind Nevada for the highest dropout rate for African-Americans. It is also doing a horrible job with Asian-Americans and the Economically Disadvantaged (in the bottom 10%) (source: ed.gov).

When people outside of Minnesota think about Minnesota, I think they usually have this idea of it being a liberal utopia with a great education system. The numbers show it is far from that. One might make the argument that the reason for the Gap in Minnesota is that whites do so well, but that is not the case either. The problem exists because minorities do so poorly.

A shining example of "Two Minnesotas" can be found in a recent Star Tribune article. There is a House bill to be considered that protects coaches from being fired solely because of parents' complaints. I agree with the bill. I think coaches should have this type of protection.

The problem I have isn't with the bill. I have a problem with this bill being brought up in Minnesota. It is the first state in the Union that is considering this bill. It also has the biggest Achievement Gap in the country in many areas.

Instead of going to school boards and complaining about coaches, why don't parents in Minnesota go to complain about the education that everyone is receiving? The most vocal parents probably have no beef with the education of their children because they are represented well and the system set up for their children to succeed. So, instead of complaining about the education of the minorities and economically disadvantaged in their schools, they go and complain about sports.

I understand that every parent wants the best for his or her children. But people need to start realizing how lucky we have it here. We are lucky to be able to have the luxury of indoor hockey rinks and swimming pools and hardwood basketball floors and well-groomed golf courses. The problem in Minnesota isn't sports. The problem is that some students are getting a much better education (an education that suits their needs and their culture--affluent white students) while everyone else is getting a pretty crappy one, according to the numbers.

I might be the first to do it, but I am not going to challenge the parents of disadvantaged students and ask why they don't care about their children's education. I am not going to challenge teachers and ask why they can't figure out how to teach to all students. I am not going to challenge coaches and ask them to coach better, whatever that means.

I am challenging parents of rich, white kids to look back every once and awhile, and maybe extend your hand to someone who needs your support, as you continue to "fight" for your fortunate offspring. You might be surprised by the admiration you get from your children when you do something unexpected.