Last chance to make things right at Minneapolis charter school

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2011 - 10:10 PM

Friendship Academy's backers were able to fend off its closure. Now the district will make sure teachers and students do their part.

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Friendship Academy educational assistant Keturah White danced with students before the start of a pep rally Friday. She said she was relieved by the news, “because I can touch the lives of more children.”

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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On a night humid enough to make church walls sweat, a south Minneapolis charter school celebrated its revival, redemption and resurrection from near closure.

Six weeks ago, Friendship Academy's leaders thought the school was doomed, a victim of higher standards set by its authorizer, the Minneapolis School District.

The district softened its stance last week, agreeing to renew the charter school's contract through June 2012.

So, on Friday night, the students, staff and supporters of Friendship Academy, which is attached to the back of a Baptist church, danced, drank and ate not just to commemorate the end of the school year, but to celebrate that they'd have a school year next year.

In 2010, 40 percent of Friendship students met reading standards on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment exams. Twenty percent met math standards.

Based on preliminary data, school officials expect to double those results in 2011, academic adviser Datrica Chukwu said.

To boost test results, instructors used English as a second language materials to teach black students, who often struggle with academic English. A new homework policy for math and other subjects required parents to come to class if their child didn't turn in homework for more than three days.

The one-year probationary renewal will give the school's 100 students and 14 staff members a chance to prove they're worthy, and Minneapolis schools officials expect to hold them to it.

Friendship has little choice.

With clear and consistent guidelines in place, there will be no excuses, Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson told parents and staff members during a recent school board meeting.

"It takes hard work to turn things around," board member Alberto Monserrate said during the same meeting. "It's not good enough for the kids to feel good or for you to feel good about the kids."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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