Report recommends steps to close Minnesota’s education gaps

Published 5:37 am Friday, December 6, 2019

By Elizabeth Shockman

MPR News/90.1

“A lot of schools and families and communities are all sort of a bit demoralized.”

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That’s Michael Rodriguez’s assessment of the way Minnesota educators feel about recent state test scores. They show Minnesota’s declining and stagnant performance in math and reading and its persistent education achievement gaps.

Rodriguez is associate dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. This week, he and his colleagues produced a report called “Expanding the Vision of Reimagine Minnesota: A Collective Education Roadmap for Action.”

“We just recently had the state test scores released. For the most part there’s no real progress statewide,” Rodriguez said. “What we hope to do is to say we can actually make progress.”

The report adds education research and recommendations from Rodriguez and his colleagues to a plan for closing achievement gaps developed by school superintendents with the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. The plan includes recommendations such as elevating student voice, recruiting teachers of color and restructuring education funding.

“Our work was to reinforce some of the goals of that report but also provide some research basis for next steps, important action strategies, some of the challenges and how to overcome those challenges,” Rodriguez said.

Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, said addressing Minnesota’s achievement gaps is urgent.

“We’re not going to have the workforce in place needed for Minnesota to remain competitive if we don’t do a better job of ensuring that all of our students graduate from high school ready for college and career,” Croonquist said. “That’s the ultimate goal and we think that the strategies outlined in this report are going to help us make progress towards getting there.”

The report will be presented to educators, students, parents and lawmakers Thursday at a conference in Minneapolis.

R.T. Rybak, president of the Minneapolis Foundation, which is hosting the conference, says the report and recommendations combine advice from students, community members and education researchers.

“It represents a unique opportunity to hear the viewpoints of those on the ground in the schools, enhanced by research from the University of Minnesota’s top education experts,” Rybak said.

Other recommendations in the report include a focus on developing students’ social and emotional skills and training teachers and school administration to “create culturally responsive and inclusive schools.”