Shirlynn LaChappelle: Response to Achievement Gap questions


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?

We must raise standards and set expectations in core courses. We must encourage our students to succeed and assure them they can. Failure is not an option! Student achieve when the standards and expectations are high.

The strongest, best prepared and most motivated teachers should teach these students. Best practices to be employed at all times.

Teacher’s compensated for performance! These schools should receive adequate resources and not what’s left.

Employing, parental training to assist parents in their role as advocates and as partners in their children’s achievement.

Finally, assessing student achievement regularly and providing needed services promptly so that student can achieve.

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

Develop a unified curriculum that is both rigorous and interesting.

Accountability is key to the process, teachers, students, parents, board and community all have a role to play to ensure the success of our schools.

We must incentivize the process; provide consequences for failing to meet expected standards and reward those who do.

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

Results will take time but, we should start seeing some positive shifts within 1-2 years using regular assessment tools to identify what works and what should be modified.


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

Every student deserves a world class education. When we improve the educational outcomes for those students, who are challenged, then less time and attention are needed to maintain order in class or to do remedial instructions since those students can now successfully participate gainfully in class activities. No one wants to feel left out!

3. It has been suggested that certain provisions of the teacher’s contract prevent the administration from staffing the schools adequately to meet the needs of students. Please comment on your opinion of the current teacher’s contract.

This may be so. We must set up standards where student needs come first, since they are why we have schools and teachers. That said, teachers are most valuable resource and must be utilized where they can make the greatest impact on student achievement and should be compensated adequately for that achievement.

4. One idea to improve student outcomes is to spend more time on task. That might mean 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?

I do believe that increasing learning time for students is important to achievement. I would like to see the school year increased to an eleven month school year to bring us more in line with the rest of the world. The main issues would be the need for increased finances in order to make this a reality and negotiating changes in the teacher contract.


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?

Early childhood education is the most important step in assuring student success in school. This is the first leg on the continuum from pre-k through college. If we state, that every child should be college ready, then this is the foundation required to achieve that goal. Certain goals must be mastered at the pre-k level in order to successfully master k-12.

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

There must be city wide collaboration between all the various levels of education. By integrating the education systems we provide the needed cohesion to make transitioning from pre-k through post secondary as more seamless progression.


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

a. Do you favor or oppose charter schools?

I support public education totally, but I support choice. I support excellence in all schools and charter schools must be required to deliver a quality education to our students as well.

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

I would like to see a collaborative model since charter schools seem to be here to stay. Our children are too important to be left without adequate educational resources no matter where they attend. I would like to see strong curriculum oversight by MPS to aid those charter schools in need of curriculum development.

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

Self governed schools are in my opinion an ideal model. It places accountability within the hands of the principal, teachers, students, parents and community.


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?

It troubles me that this effort is headed by a non-profit with no track record or educators at the helm. There have been many failed initiates in the north side with much money misspent and few if any results. Geoffery Canada’s vision and passion not to mention this Harvard trained educator’s expertise is absent from the equation and may well be the difference between success and failure. For this reason I feel it paramount that a partnership with MPS be in place to ensure adequate curriculum and evaluation of stated and expected outcomes for children involved.

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

Absolutely! The most challenged part of the city in North MPLS. Investing to improve employment, educational outcomes, opportunity and chances of success for the people of this area improves the city as a whole. We are in this together!


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 that solving the problem of low achievement in our schools will attract all students and their parents to MPS. I favor developing a world class curriculum with motivated highly trained and well compensated teaching staffs, who proactively engage students, parents and community in becoming positively involved in the education process for the benefit of our society.

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?

Currently, we are experiencing a devastating achievement gap with many of our students of color, while at the same time, a lack of adequate financial resources to tackle this issue appropriately. We must redesign and redeploy appropriately the best resources we have at our disposal to eliminate this disparity within our system. Other challenges include buy-in by the teachers and community in any plans that are made that could change the dynamics of the current situation. Attaining the trust through open and transparent communication with all stake holders, teachers, students, parents, and community, since we need each other to become successful in our goals is of primary importance.

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

Due to the size of MPS system I think some variation on a “results based” model may prove helpful but may be difficult to achieve. I like the idea of governance at the local or school level with the involvement of all stakeholders working together to achieve desired goals. Training should be provided to those involved to ensure everyone understands how best to assist in the process.


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

e. I disagree. I like a more community based platform where education is the main issue and not one of many concerns of the mayor.

10. Your role in the school board

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

School board members are entrusted with the duty and obligation to through fact finding and collaboration, to advocate and determine the best course of action and policies developed, to support the superintendent in managing our school system and delivering a quality education to every student. The board is primarily a governance body and has fiscal responsibility for budgets, contract negotiations, maintenance of physical plants within MPS properties, and assisting the superintendant in insuring that standards are maintained as related to curriculum development and assessment.

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

I understand that it may require 10-20 hours per week due to the large amount of information that will need to studied.

c. If elected, how many terms do you plan to serve?

I plan to serve as long as I can bring a positive influence to the board and am reelected.


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

Success looks like students engaged in their learning process, excited at the prospects that their improved achievement has shown them. It means the achievement gap is no more. It means that students, teachers, community and business leaders, who are all partners in this endeavor, are successfully collaborating to improve and evaluate outcomes regularly and work to make the needed changes together. Finally MPS is the “First Choice” for parents and students! When you think of a world class education, you think MPS!