I am pleased to announce that for the first time in six years, Minneapolis Public Schools has made progress in narrowing the achievement gap between students of color and White students. We could not have hoped for more encouraging state test results. Significant across-the-board gains were made in reading for American Indian, African American, Asian and Hispanic students. The gap was also narrowed for all groups except American Indian students in math.
These results validate the hard work and focus of our staff members, community partners, volunteers, and our families who make important contributions to student achievement every day. We still have significant gains to make, but this progress in the right direction motivates us even further to continue carrying out the work of our strategic plan.
We must continue working effectively to increase student success. The key components to attaining our goals include effective teaching, strong school leadership, and high expectations for all students. Our staff members hold our students to high expectations in the classroom each day, which is why it is important for our families and community members to influence, encourage and support our children in their neighborhoods and at home each day.
Adequate student attendance is consistent with academic achievement and provides students with greater opportunities later in life. High expectations help students achieve. By adhering to attendance guidelines early, students will develop good habits that will help them be successful in high school and work toward graduation.
The impact of consistent student attendance reaches further than just the student; it reflects upon the performance of the school district and correlates with safe and healthy communities, too. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (HCAO) also supports the Minneapolis Public Schools through a county-wide truancy program, be@school, which aims to reduce juvenile crime, increase graduation rates, and improve academic achievement.
The Minneapolis Public Schools will aim for 95 percent of our students to be at school 95 percent of the time (missing eight or fewer school days a year). We are close to that goal, and I believe we can reach it. Anyone and everyone can play a role in this effort:
• Children need to hear that someone wants them at school. Ask your child or the young people that you have interactions with each day if they are going to be in school tomorrow.
• Give young people a reason to be excited about coming to school each day. Tell them how important their education is to you.
• Help your child manage and prioritize their work. Plan to tackle school assignments with a notebook, schedule, calendar or daily planner. It’s a good habit they will use for life.
• Celebrate the successes of our students, which can range from doing well on a test or feeling good about their accomplishments each day.
We still have a long way to go, but it’s great to see progress. We are also grateful for the dedication of our staff members, community partners, volunteers and families. On behalf of the Minneapolis Public Schools, thank you for all you do to support the young people in our community each day.
Bernadeia Johnson, Ed.D., is superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.