Minneapolis schools seek to end disparities by 2020

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2014 - 9:23 PM

Minneapolis public schools released its new five-year strategic plan.

Minneapolis school officials want to double academic performance for students of color by 2020, while eliminating the achievement gap and dramatically lowering the number of suspensions for black students.

“Student achievement is not where it’s supposed to be, especially among African-American males,” said Michael Goar, the district’s chief executive.

The new goals are part of the district’s larger Acceleration 2020 Strategic Plan, which was presented to the school board Tuesday.

Over the next six years, the district plans dogged attention to 47 measures designed to achieve six goals: increasing student graduation rates and college readiness, eliminating disparities, improving community involvement, allocating more resources directly to schools, creating financial stability, and development of school staff.

District officials want math and reading scores to increase 5 percent every year for the next five years. For students of color, leaders want those standards to increase by 8 percent each year.

The district is also aiming to increase its graduation rate by 10 percent each year.

Board chairman Richard Mammen said he questions whether the goals are achievable.

“The 5-8-10 growth rates are ambitious,” he said. “We want to support urgency and ambition, but is it realistic and is the capacity really there to achieve those things? We don’t want to set false goals that are unrealistic.”

Mammen said, however, that the board had asked for ambitious goals and results, and he was “pleasantly surprised” to see that leaders delivered.

Goar said the district has been working on its plan for more than a year by gathering significant input from teachers, parents and principals.

He said the plan, led by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson and her leadership team, is aimed at speeding the district’s pace for tackling schools’ most stubborn and worrisome problems.

Only 24 percent of students of color were proficient in reading. By 2020, the district wants that number to be 72 percent. Black students are four times more likely to get suspended than white students.

The district’s largest academic gap is between white and black students. The difference in their reading proficiency is 54 points. By 2020, the district wants to completely eliminate the divide.

Exactly how the goals will be achieved is still in question. The district plans to have each school, with the leadership of the principal, come up with its own plan.

The Acceleration 2020 Plan is largely focused on giving schools more control over decisions on everything from school curriculum to budgeting.

“This allows the schools to innovate and take ownership of their outcomes,” Goar said.

Around October, the district’s central office will ask schools to submit proposals on how they plan to meet the district’s goals.

“With autonomy also comes accountability,” Goar said.

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