Encouraging kindergarten literacy

Kindergarten reading has been a personal focus of mine, as I dedicated my work this school year to the 3,100 college bound kindergarten students. Many of our families and community members may recall the goal that I set for our kindergarten students when the school year first began; we aimed for all kindergarten students to be reading at a ‘level B’ or higher after winter break. I am pleased to announce that more than 60 percent of kindergarten students achieved or exceeded this ambitious goal. Furthermore, at the mid-year point, approximately one third of kindergarten students already achieved reading levels at or higher than expected for the end of kindergarten.

Where the goal was not met for some students, we will work diligently to accelerate progress made toward reading at level C, the end of year reading goal for kindergarten students. It is critical that we use every opportunity to accelerate learning — students don’t have the luxury of time to catch up.

This is a ‘no excuses’ goal that empowers us to say, “Yes, it can be done, and we will do it here.” We all must have exceptionally high expectations for every student every day. I recall that some individuals contacted me after I announced the goal to express concerns that it was too aggressive and unrealistic for kindergarten students. Well, a number of national and local school leaders realize this goal for their kindergarten students every year. As the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, I will not expect anything less of our students, teachers and parents in making this goal a reality.

MCA and Grad Testing is right around the corner and I’m eager to learn about what those results will indicate about Minneapolis Public Schools mission, Every Child College Ready. We expect great things of our students and schools. We want our students to be ready and eager to move on to the next grade level each year and eventually ready for college or the workforce after high school. We also want our students to be prepared to engage as productive global citizens that contribute to our neighborhoods and communities in a meaningful way. We must instill excitement and passion for lifelong learning in our students, and inspire them to achieve now and in the future.

Bernadeia H. Johnson is superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.