Schools notebook // Academic gains and persistent gaps in Minneapolis schools

An annual report on academic progress in Minneapolis Public Schools shows percentage gains in several key areas — including kindergarten-readiness, eighth-grade algebra scores and college-readiness among sophomores — but little progress in closing persistent performance gaps.

Presented at the Oct. 9 School Board meeting, the report shows the district still lags the state averages for proficiency in reading (19 percent below state average), math (22 percent below) and science (20 percent below) — gaps that have changed little in five years. Within the district, students of color over the past three years have made proficiency gains when compared to their white peers, but a significant achievement gap persists.

The four-year graduation rate at the district’s seven traditional high schools is 66 percent, about 11 points below the state average. When alternative schools are factored in, less than half of all district students graduate in four years.

Still, it appears district families are more satisfied with the education their students receive in Minneapolis schools. In a survey, 82 percent said their schools met or exceeded expectations, up from 80 percent in 2011 and 76 percent in 2009.

The report shows that, once again, many of the district’s top-performing schools can be found in Southwest. Included in the top 25 percent were: community schools Lyndale, Kenny, Burroughs and Lake Harriet (upper campus); the Windom and Emerson dual-Spanish immersion schools; magnet programs at Armatage, Barton and Whittier; Anthony Middle School; and Southwest High School.

Within Southwest, only Bryn Mawr Community School ranked in the lowest-performing 25 percent of district schools.

To read the full report, go to board.mpls.k12.mn.us and click on “Meeting Agenda, Packet and Minutes” to download the document.

Kids Voting Minneapolis recruiting volunteers

Help promote civic engagement among the city’s next generation of voters by volunteering with Kids Voting Minneapolis this Election Day.

The local non-partisan, nonprofit organization has since 2004 invited K–12 students to join their parents at the polls and cast a Kids Voting ballot. This year, Kids Voting Minneapolis is seeking volunteers to staff about 130 polling places across the city on Nov. 6.

The Kids Voting ballots include many of the same races on the General Election ballot handed to adults, including the presidential race. The organization tends to see its strongest youth turnout during presidential election years, like this one; both 2004 and 2008 saw about 7,600 Minneapolis children and teens join their parents at the polls to cast a Kids Voting ballot.

Prior to Election Day, Kids Voting Minneapolis also provides free K–12 civics lessons to any city schools, public or private, that request them. After ballots are cast, the results of the mock election are shared on the Kids Voting website, kidsvotingminneapolis.org.

Volunteers are needed to staff two Election Day shifts, each three hours long, running 2 p.m.–5 p.m. and 5 p.m.–8 p.m., when polls close. Kids Voting Minneapolis is hosting one-hour training sessions for volunteers at various locations this month, including three in Southwest: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at Painter Park, 620 W. 34th St.; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S.; and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Linden Hills Park, 3100 W. 43rd. St.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Go to the Kids Voting Minneapolis website or email Volunteer Coordinator Will Howell at [email protected] for more information.

Blake junior is sports envoy to Russia

A junior at The Blake School was one of 20 youth hockey players who spent 10 days in Moscow earlier this month as a youth sports envoy to Russia.

Rory Taylor was one of 10 boys, 10 girls and four coaches from Minnesota and California who made the Oct. 5–14 trip, part of a State Department sports diplomacy program. They were scheduled to meet with Russian youth hockey players and coaches, play hockey and participate in cultural exchanges.

A 24-member Russian youth hockey delegation made a similar visit to Washington, D.C., last year, and other exchanges have included swimmers, basketball players and volleyball players from both countries. The visits were initiated by the U.S.–Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, a group that aims to strengthen ties between the former Cold War enemies by developing connections in areas of mutual interest, according to a description of the program on the website of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Blake School reported Taylor was selected based on his grades, hockey experience and a 1,500-word essay explaining why he should make the trip.

Candidates forum 

at Jefferson

THE WEDGE — League of Women Voters Minneapolis has invited the candidates for School Board to a pre-Election Day forum 7:30 p.m.–9 p.m. Oct. 25 at Jefferson Community School, 1200 W. 26th St.

Reach Dylan Thomas at 

[email protected]