As has been reported time and again, Minnesota’s achievement gap between white students and students of color is one of the highest in the nation. Data from 2013 “shows that districts and charter schools across the state are [relatively] on track to meet an aggressive statewide goal of closing gaps by 50 percent by 2017.” Despite improvements, 53 percent and 74 percent of Minnesota school districts were unable to meet their 2013 goals for improvement goals in reading and mathematics, respectively.
Former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and the organization Generation Next have proposed three specific measures to attempt to combat the achievement gap from the top down, including comprehensive health screening by age 3, reading proficiency by third grade and enhanced mentoring and life planning for high schoolers. However, there are many programs across the country that can and should be utilized to ensure further success.
For example, many pieces of research focus on summer break, when achievement gaps widen the fastest. The Practice Makes Perfect program in New York City focuses on students of all ages and encourages students to teach each other the information with assistance from educators.
The program has been widely successful with their first cohort of 22 students applying and being accepted to more than 120 elite colleges and universities. The strength of this program is that it combines educator expertise with innovative teaching practices. The Practice Makes Perfect program is just one instance of innovation in this field.
Which is necessary, because losing the achievement gap depends on innovative solutions that may include philanthropic endeavors, such as Generation Next, but also communal concern and engagement including parents, students, educators and administrators. To this point, Minnesota shows this is possible through the St. Paul Open World Learning Center, which has proven thatinnovative community-led investment does produce results for every student, no matter their race. Additionally, teacher-led schools in New Jersey have gleaned national attention with little critical understanding of their positive possibilities.
Where resources should be allocated and focused in this suite of programs is in the schools. Focusing on the actual school will change perspectives on what the public school can actually do for the student. It will empower our educators to be invested in every single Minnesota student and work towards equity.