Education program moves to Mac from the U of M

By Maya Pisel

The Center for School change, a program that received $2 million to work with low-income students in Twin Cities public charter schools, relocated from the University of Minnesota to Macalester in January.The $2 million grant from the Cargill Foundation is the first CSC funding to be overseen by Macalester. During the last 20 years, the CSC raised $25 million dollars through the University of Minnesota, including a $14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and Department of Education.

CSC Director Joe Nathan said funding was a key trigger of the CSC’s relocation because “the University [of Minnesota] . was asking for a steadily increasing percentage of the money to administer grants.” When they looked for a new host, Nathan said the CSC “felt that Macalester was a better environment in which we could operate more smoothly.”

According to their website, the CSC’s mission is to increase student achievement, raise high school graduation rates and improve student attitudes towards learning. To achieve these goals, it works at school, community and policy levels, Nathan said.

At the school level, Nathan said the CSC has helped to create “small learning communities” within several St Paul schools. It has also collaborated with communities to both establish charter schools and improve existing schools.

The CSC has worked with a wide range of public schools and school districts, not just with St. Paul charters. The CSC worked with Cincinnati public schools over a five-year period, helping to increase the district’s graduation rates by 30 percent and eliminate the disparity between white and African American students’ graduation rates, Nathan said.

Sheena Thao, the Outreach Specialist, said the CSC is currently working to get more Minnesota students of color to join dual enrollment programs. Thao works with high school students, community organizations, families and schools to help explain programs like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Post-Secondary Enrollment Options to students.

The CSC collaborated with the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder to distribute about 6,000 newspaper inserts about PSEO that included short articles from current students and alumni. The CSC distributed information about PSEO in several different languages, and Thao has written articles in publications including Hmong Today.

In addition to working directly with schools and students, the CSC researches policy issues. They have produced about thirty reports.

“We’re currently working with the National Governors Association . helping them to understand what they can do to refine and improve their public chartered school laws,” Nathan said. Nathan additionally testifies to legislative groups.

Nathan and Thao hope Macalester students will benefit in several ways from the CSC’s presence on campus.

“We’re going to be looking for students who want to do an internship, [and] either this year or next year we’ll probably be hiring a research assistant,” Nathan said.

Nathan said he usually works on policy research in collaboration with students, and he has worked with Macalester students before.

“My experience is that certainly juniors and seniors here are very, very well prepared students,” he said.

They also hope to collaborate with academic departments.

“Professor [Paru] Shah has already asked me to talk with one of her classes, and I’m talking with various professors about whether either or both of us [Nathan and Thao] could talk to their classes,” Nathan said. With faculty permission, Nathan would be interested in teaching his own class.

The CSC is also looking for low-income Mac students and Mac students of color who participated in PSEO, AP or IB to talk to students in the St. Paul public schools.

Nathan and Thao said they are very excited about their relocation to Macalester.

“We’ve had just fantastic assistance and support in moving in,” Nathan said. “We’re really excited about being here.