Philanthropy beat: Minneapolis launches bid to close achievement gap

If you haven’t already heard of the wide achievement gap between white and minority students in Minnesota schools, you will in the weeks ahead.

The Minneapolis Foundation is launching a major public information campaign to put a spotlight on the problem and proven formulas for shrinking it.

Watch for banners in the Minneapolis skyways, public service announcements before films at Landmark and select AMC theaters, print and social media advertising and more.

“Many Minnesotans don’t understand how severe the achievement gap is,’’ said Sandra Vargas, president of the Minneapolis Foundation, which is organizing the project with community partners. “The word is just not out there.’’

While many parents, educators and minority communities are aware of the problem, the broader public is not, she said.

Minnesota has some of the widest achievement gaps in the nation. For example, 61 percent of white fifth-graders are proficient in math, compared to 20 percent of Hispanics, 12 percent of African Americans and 11 percent of Indians.

Fewer than half of Minneapolis students of color graduate from high school on time. Considering that 40 percent of Twin Cities residents are projected to be people of color by 2040, organizers say, it’s critical to find solutions now.

The campaign is called RESET, an acronym for strategies that have proven track records in other schools:

• Real-time data. Teachers must test and measure student progress “hour by hour, day by day,’’ and fill in the gaps in learning on the spot. Don’t let students even start to fall behind.

• Expectations. Schools should place minority students in rigorous classes and provide support — not track them into lower-level classes.

• Strong leaders. Principals must be held accountable for their students’ academic success.

• Effective teaching. Teachers are the most critical piece of the equation.

• Time on task. A longer school year is needed.

 

Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511

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