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“My teachers are teaching me right now so I want to teach other people,” he said. That’s an ambition shared by classmate Mohamud Sugule, 11, who finds the curriculum broader than in Ethiopia and wants to teach math.
Signs of progress
The district’s newcomer program is known as NABAD, which is both an acronym for its purpose and a Somali word that’s used both to mean peace and as a greeting response. Expanding NABAD even before a year’s data is in represents a leap of faith by the district. But the school sees signs of progress, even without the standardized testing that the outside world often judges results by. One sign is reading levels. In the first three months of NABAD, eight middle-schoolers started near the bottom of a widely used reading scale and then grew by at least three reading levels, with two rising from a pre-K level to first-grade entry level.
The expansion also meets a need. Sullivan alone has 62 students who tested as eligible for the newcomer program, far more than its current 40 spots. More are expected to apply next year when the program goes citywide.
What’s good for Somali students is also good for Sullivan. Principal Ron Wagner has built the school’s enrollment from 500 students to about 800 through five years of making connections with Somali immigrants, newcomers or not.
He knows he’s succeeding in part because of the word-of-mouth at one downtown homeless shelter used by many newcomer families. The word is: Ask for Sullivan.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib