Mohamud Noor: Response to Achievement Gap questions

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1. The Minneapolis Public Schools have struggled for some time to raise the achievement of low-income students and students of color. 

a.      What in your opinion are the most important factors in raising student achievement?

Quality education creates opportunities for all children, and we must provide it equitably. No single initiative will raise the student achievement; I will work with our new superintendent to draw on her substantial skills and experience to develop a plan that includes:

  • Attract, retain and reward highly qualified teachers
  • Challenging coursework that meets rigorous standards
  • High expectations for students to excel in all academic areas
  • Extensive use of evaluation data for each student, resulting in intervention where needed
  • Manageable class size, extended-day and summer program
  • High-quality early childhood learning programs that integrate with kindergarten programming

In addition I believe that the School Board should play a leadership role in the community, proactively seeking greater involvement and responsibility on the part of parents.

b.      What measures should the school board take to improve student outcomes?

It is not the responsibility of one entity; all of us have a responsibility to bear, and all of us have a stake in the outcome. We must bring together the entire community in effective and responsible ways to initiate and sustain lasting improvement of student outcomes. The School Board must develop action plan to address funding adequacy and policy changes needed to achieve these objectives. We must also focus district resources directly on the classroom and student achievement.

c.       If the school board follows your suggestions, how soon would you expect to see significant results?

I think a five-year plan will be required to see significant results in academic performance.

 

2. Some people are concerned that focusing on academic achievement for low-income students may lead to insufficient attention being paid to the needs of average and higher performing students. How do you respond to that concern?

We need a comprehensive approach that takes into account the unique needs of each student. I believe we must provide variety of education techniques ranging from extended-day and summer program, e-learning to reduced class size. We must ensure that at risk students get the support they need and higher performing students get the attention they deserve.

 

3. It has been suggested that certain provisions of the teachers’ contract make more difficult the staffing of schools adequate to meet the needs of all students.  What is your view?

I believe in a collective bargaining focused on the needs of students. The current Memorandum of Understanding between Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Minneapolis Public Schools is a first step in addressing staffing of schools based on select and interview process. I would seek continued cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect between Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Minneapolis Public Schools.

 

4. One idea to improve student outcomes is to have a longer school day or a longer school year.  Do you favor increasing learning time for students, and if so, how would you like to see that happen?

Yes, I would favor extended-day learning program to improve student outcomes. I believe there is a need for more time in the classroom for at-risk student. I also believe we should make use of evaluation data for each student, resulting in intervention where needed.

 

5. Early childhood education is often offered as an important strategy for addressing the achievement gap.

a.      What are your views on investing in early childhood education?

I believe school readiness is critical to every child from the day they are born. Research shows childhood learning and development are vital for school-ready, college-ready, career-ready, and life-ready.

b.      How can there be better alignment between pre-k programs and the K-12 system?

My son will be attending a hi-5 (pre-k) in Minneapolis Public School and I believe this program will give him an opportunity to be prepared for K-12 system. There seems to be a disconnect between the early childhood development and school systems. I will make sure that we engage Minnesota Department of Human Service to establish quality child care programs for three and four year-old that takes into account early childhood education.

 

6. Some people suggest we need more flexible or innovative models of delivering education.

a.      Do you favor or oppose charter schools?

I believe that charter schools have an opportunity to facilitate education reforms. I would support charter school if they are to comply with federal and state laws governing public schools, including laws regarding teacher qualifications, testing standards, and fiscal accountability. I think they should also be accountable to the school district.

b.      What should the relationship be between the charter schools and MPS?

I believe there should be collaboration between the charter schools and MPS.

c.       Do you favor or oppose self-governed (teacher-led) schools?

I do support self-governed schools.  Teachers have always championed for educational reform in Minneapolis Public Schools. They have put student’s academic achievement first. I believe collaboration of stakeholders is critical in improving teaching and learning for our children in the classroom.

 

7. A group of Northside residents have formed a Northside Achievement Zone, aiming to replicate some of the outcomes experienced by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York.

a.      How should the School Board respond?

I believe the school board should collaborate with families and community members, respond to diverse interests and needs, and mobilize community resources where it is needed to improve student achievement.

b.      Is it appropriate for the School Board to make special efforts or investments in a particular portion of the city?

I believe it is appropriate for the School Board to invest in parts of the city that requires an intervention. However, this will require sustained effort and resources to support initiative like NAZ.  We cannot replicate HCZ model, but we apply its five core principles:

  1. Select a specific neighborhood and work comprehensively and at scale within it.
  2. Create a pipeline of support.
  3. Build community
  4. Evaluate program outcomes
  5. Cultivate a culture of success

 

8. With 65% students of color, the Minneapolis Public Schools face significant challenges with regard to integration. Some people prioritize integration efforts, while others argue that that it is more important to improve the quality of schools in low income neighborhoods. What is your opinion on this? Do you favor efforts to increase integration in the city schools?   If yes, what steps would you take to make that happen?

I believe integration is very important and it prevents differential treatment on the basis of race and ethnicity. We must strive to create an environment where students with different background can learn from each other. I also believe we must improve quality of all schools in the district.

 

9. Improving governance of our public schools is a big topic of discussion.

a.      What in your opinion are the main governance challenges for public education?

There are numerous governance challenges for public education. However, these challenges can be addressed by:

  • Adopting a fiscally responsible budget that allocates resources based on the district’s vision, goals and priorities for student learning
  • Ensuring school board and district accountability, transparency and integrity
  • Ensuring the board is accountable and open to the public interest and the public trust
  • Engaging community members and parents by seeking divergent perspectives in decision making process to enrich the quality of education
  • Promoting collaborative environments with a commitment to equity and quality learning and achievement outcomes for all students

b.     Are there different governance models that you believe are worth exploring?

I think the current governance model works for the district.

c.       The Governor has recommended that the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts be managed by the cities’ mayors. What is your opinion of this recommendation?

I believe in separation of duties and by more responsibilities to cities’ mayors will not be effective approach.

 

10. Your role in the school board

a.      How do you define the role of a school board member?

The School Board is the governing body of the school district. School Board member responsibilities include:

  • Set the vision and goals for the district
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent
  • Adopt and oversee the annual budget
  • Adopt policies that give the district direction to set priorities and achieve its goals
  • Manage the collective bargaining process for employees of the district
  •  Act as advocates for students and schools

b.      How much time each week do you expect to spend on school related matters?  

I expect to spend at least 20 hours a week on School Board related matters. Cooperation is the key to successful school board governance. Each board member works with the other members of the board and in partnership with the superintendent, who carries out the board’s vision and direction.

 

11. Finally, what does success in the Minneapolis Public Schools look like to you?

Success to me is where students have an opportunity to excel in all academic areas. I also believe in responsive MPS by:

  • Ensuring students are supported and inspired to succeed in academic achievements.
  • Ensuring students, parents and other members of the school community are welcomed and valued.
  • Providing high quality educational experiences, including rigorous curriculum, technology and high quality facilities.
  • Providing and maintain a safe and secure environment for all students and staff.