Rybak to lead group focused on tackling achievement gap

VIDEO included

Mayor R.T. Rybak at a news conference at City Hall today. Credit:

After his term ends, Mayor R.T. Rybak will become the executive director of Generation Next — an organization devoted to tackling the achievement gap in Twin Cities schools. 

He will start his new job Jan. 2 right after the new mayor is sworn in.

Addressing racial disparities in education “is something as close to my heart as anything could be,” Rybak said at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday.

“Improving education for all children is clearly the civil rights issue of our time, and there is almost no region in the country that has to close a wider gap than Minneapolis–Saint Paul,” Rybak said in a statement about his new job. “A great region like ours cannot become greater if kids get a different education and their success can be predicted by their race, their family’s income and where they live.”

Generation Next, which has headquarters downtown, launched about a year ago and is a collaboration among leaders in government, education, philanthropy and the nonprofit world.

Generation Next is modeled after the National Strive Network, which has made inroads in 20 metropolitan school districts across the country.

In Cincinnati, Strive posted the following results after five years of work: a 9 percent increase in kindergarten readiness; an 11 percent increase in high school graduation rates; and a 10 percent increase in college enrollment, according to information posted on the Generation Next website.

Generation Next has five key goals: improve kindergarten readiness; set third grade reading benchmarks; set eighth grade benchmarks in math; reach a 100 percent high school graduation rate; and have every high school student earn a post secondary degree or certificate within six years of high school graduation.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler serves as the co-chair of Generation Next.

“To truly close the unacceptable achievement gap in the Twin Cities, we need a concerted and dogged campaign driven by a trusted, energetic, and inspirational leader, a person with a deep knowledge of this community, with political savvy, and with the track record of getting tough things done,” Kaler said. “Mayor R.T Rybak is the right person at the right time for this critical job.”

Rybak said he’ll enter his new role “humbly” but with a “lack of patience” for moving forward on addressing problems in Twin Cities schools. He added he’ll focus on aligning players involved in working on the achievement gap problem to make sure their efforts are focused and effective.

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson called Rybak a “perfect fit” to lead Generation Next. “He has demonstrated consistent passion for improving public education and enthusiastic support for public schools, and he and I have partnered countless times to make positive and impactful change for students and their families,” she said.

Rybak also announced he will be teaching a class called “Mayor 101” at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in 2014.


By the numbers: Minneapolis Public Schools

(2012 Baseline Date established by Generation Next with help of Wilder Research) 

Children ready for kindergarten (based on assessment tests)

All: 72 percent

American Indian: 57 percent

Asian: 68 percent

Hispanic: 41 percent

Black: 70 percent

White: 91 percent


Third graders meeting benchmark for reading

All: 64 percent

American Indian: 45 percent

Asian: 56 percent

Hispanic: 48 percent

Black: 47 percent

White: 91 percent


Eighth graders who meet math benchmarks

All: 39 percent

American Indian: 17 percent

Asian: 54 percent

Hispanic: 23 percent

Black: 18 percent

White: 68 percent


High School graduation rate

All: 47 percent

American Indian: 22 percent

Asian: 62 percent

Hispanic: 34 percent

Black: 36 percent

White: 67 percent


Students completing postsecondary education

All: 51.2 percent

American Indian: too few to report

Asian (Southeast): 43 percent

Asian (other): 74.2 percent

Black (foreign born): 18.4 percent

Black (U.S. born): 13.7 percent

White (not Hispanic): 65.2 percent

Hispanic: 16.9 percent

Two or more races: 26.8 percent

Other races: 26.7 percent