Schools notebook // Southwest steady on AYP

Six Minneapolis Public Schools in Southwest met goals for student proficiency in reading and math this year, down from eight schools in 2009.

The district as a whole saw slightly fewer schools making AYP, or Adequate Yearly Progress, toward student achievement goals. About 14 percent of district schools met benchmarks on state standardized tests, down from nearly 19 percent in 2009.

The slide means more district schools will face escalating sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law, although many in education say the law sets an unachievable goal.

Approved by Congress in 2001, No Child Left Behind set a goal of 100 percent proficiency on math and reading assessments by 2014. But the ever-rising benchmarks mean more schools every year are considered in need of improvement, even if just one sub-category of students in a school fails to meet proficiency targets.

David Heistad described the Catch 22 scenario faced by schools like Jefferson Community School in The Wedge, which faces the most severe sanctions under No Child Left Behind after failing to make AYP for several years. One group that missed benchmarks at Jefferson was students with limited English proficiency.

“In the case of ELL (or English Language Learner students), the only way you get into ELL services is if you’re a poor reader,” Heistad said. “So, automatically it defines the group that aren’t going to reach the standards, because if you are a good reader you’re going to be exited from the services.”

Schools that receive federal Title 1 funds for low-income students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch are required to provide additional services for students when they miss AYP targets. Those high-poverty schools often face the most challenges on the standardized tests used to measure student progress.

“We have lots of schools that are in planning for restructuring or have to restructure this year,” Heistad said. “That’s the main change in Minneapolis, is those high-poverty schools now are in stages of federal compliance that require them to really consider drastic changes in the curriculum or leadership team or, really, maybe even fresh-starting with a whole new staff.”

In Southwest, none of the schools that made AYP in 2010 received Title I funds.

The Minnesota Department of Education, which released the AYP results Aug. 10, reported the number of schools not making AYP in the state held steady at 1,048 from 2009 to 2010. The number of schools that did make AYP dropped just slightly, to 1,060 from 1,066, but was essentially unchanged.

In a statement released with the AYP data, Education Commissioner Alice Seagren acknowledged the mixed news, but said she was “encouraged” more schools did not fall short of AYP targets.

More information on the Minneapolis Public Schools AYP results can be found on the district website at www.mpls.k12.mn.us/NCLB.html.

More information on both the district’s and individual schools’ performance can be found on the Department of Education website at education.state.mn.us.

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New associate superintendents announced

New Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson announced several appointments to her cabinet in August, including an interim associate superintendent for Area C, which includes Southwest.

Bob McCauley, a former Area C associate superintendent and principal of Southwest High School, will fill that position until a permanent Area C associate superintendent is named. Former Area C Associate Superintendent Marianne Norris retired after the 2009–2010 school year.

Johnson appointed Mark Bonine, former principal of Nellie Stone Johnson Community School and Andersen Open School, Area A associate superintendent. Area A includes North and Northeast schools.

New Area B Associate Superintendent Erin Glynn will oversee South schools. Glynn previously served as the district’s chief academic officer, managed the Principals’ Academy and was principal of district schools.

As of mid-August Johnson had yet to name a permanent chief academic officer to fill the position she vacated to take over as district superintendent.

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MPS student placement office open longer

Minneapolis Public Schools planned to expand the hours of its Student Placement Services Center during the final week of summer vacation.

The center assists families new to Minneapolis, or those who have recently moved, to find a school for their student. Located at 1250 W. Broadway, the center will be open 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Aug. 23–31.

Parents whose first language is something other than English should instead seek school placement assistance for their child at the New Families Center, 3345 Chicago Ave. S. The New Families Center will operate with the same extended hours Aug. 23–31.

The first day of school for students in grades 1–12 is Aug. 30. Students in kindergarten and High Five preschool programs begin classes Sept. 1.

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Homeless students receive backpacks

The international nonprofit relief organization Feed the Children planned to distribute 900 backpacks to homeless and highly mobile Minneapolis Public Schools students in August.

The district reported backpacks filled with school supplies, books and snacks would be distributed at People Serving People, a Downtown homeless shelter.

The district estimated the numbers of homeless and highly mobile students at the start of the 2010–2011 school year were up 3.6 percent from the previous school year to 5,721 students.