U students to visit local grade schools

Brian Close

Some students in Sociology 1001 are going back to middle school in early March.
Students will participate in a study, performed by the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis, during which they will spend a day following a student, faculty member or principal.
The program will fulfill a class requirement.
Laurel Hirt, a student program coordinator in the Office of Special Learning Opportunities, said the study is only one of a number of options students can take for the class. Others include serving meals to the homeless and tutoring students.
The league, which is looking for volunteers from the University and the community, hopes to gather data to help focus on problems in Minneapolis middle schools.
“We felt we needed to come up with really serious data to help us say what the community can do in very specific ways,” said Kathy Graves, a league volunteer. The results will be released in June.
Observers will return to the schools after one year and record again. They will compare the second year to the first and note any changes.
The study is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. The foundation focuses on middle schools.
“Middle schools are generally neglected in the school system,” said Hayes Mizell, director of the Program for Student Achievement at the foundation. “In some respects, it’s the last best chance to intervene.”
Middle schools are an attempt to bridge elementary and secondary schools, said John Cogan, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
“They try to move the students from a child-centered approach to a more content-based, subject-oriented approach at the secondary levels,” he said.
While participation is low at this point, program directors say the shadow study will help students with career planning.
Mindy Geiss, a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts and a class member, said the study will help her decide on a teaching career.
“Trying to decide between high school, middle school and elementary is really hard if you haven’t had the experience in the schools.”
She said that teachers recruited high school students to help with the elementary kids, but there was little request for assistants at the middle school level.
“They get a real dose of what it is like to be a kid in a school,” Mizell said. “They actually get in the school and slog through an entire day and see what they make of it.”