By Mike Ciresi, March guest blogger
As people with an interest in education, you are familiar with the achievement gap. In Minnesota, the gap between white students and students of color, and between higher income and lower income students, is one of the largest in the country.
While we have been discussing and studying the achievement gap for a number of years, it still persists to the detriment of many of our students and to our state’s economic future. There are many causes of the gap, including poverty. But now is not the time to throw up our hands in despair. We cannot wait to eliminate poverty before attacking the achievement gap. In fact, it’s time to redouble our efforts to close or eliminate the gap by engaging parents, business and civic leaders, and the wider community and by highlighting what positive steps are working in some of our schools to help our kids succeed.
Last year the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children (RKMC) began such an effort through a public awareness campaign. We received widespread positive feedback from community leaders, parents and educators.
This month the RKMC Foundation is supporting the Minneapolis Foundation as it launches an even bigger effort called RESET Education. It will feature public service ads on Skyway banners, online, in print and on the radio, as well as a media campaign and three major Minnesota Meeting events featuring national education experts at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. A movie trailer on the achievement gap will run at area theaters and longer video highlighting strategies that are effective will be available online.
The RESET Education campaign stands for:
Real-time use of data. Successful schools continually monitor student progress and use data to drive and differentiate instruction. At present, information about student proficiency is not available until after the school year ends.
Expectations not Excuses. Successful schools expect every child to excel and accept no less. Teacher expectations are shown to account for 42 percent of the difference between white and African-American students’ realization of their potential, after controlling for all factors.
Strong Leadership. Successful schools empower school leaders to shape staffing, resources and culture and hold them accountable for student and teacher success.
Effective Teaching. Successful schools consider teaching to be effective when students master the material, not just receive it. Students with a highly effective teacher can gain up to a full year of additional academic growth.
Time on Task. Successful schools have their students spend more time in the classroom and make every minute count. Fifteen additional school days a year would gain the equivalent of an additional year of instruction by the time a student graduates.
Public charter and Minneapolis district schools using RESET strategies have all of their students making excellent academic progress and significantly outperforming students at schools that don’t use them.
Without positive change in closing the achievement gap, the numbers tell a chilling story. Fewer than half of Minneapolis students of color graduate on time. Minnesota ranks last in the country in graduating Latino and Native students from high school. Sixty-one percent of white fifth graders are proficient in math compared with 12 percent of African-American fifth graders. And 87 percent of white third graders are proficient in reading compared with 36 percent of Latino third graders.
But if we close the gap — which we as a community can do — the picture is far brighter. Not only will we be providing greater lifetime opportunities for all our students, but we will be improving our state’s economic future and our ability to compete in the 21st century. If we graduate students of color from high school at the same rate as white students, we could add $1.3 billion annually to our state’s economy by 2020. Those educated graduates will become our college students and our workers of tomorrow. We owe it to them and to us to make the effort and to succeed.
Won't you get involved by attending a Minnesota Meeting at the Fitzgerald Theater, becoming active with local school efforts and letting local leaders know you support RESET? More information about RESET Education.