RIGHTS BLOG: Updates from the Department of Human Rights


Posted on 2/21/14

Minnesota’s educational disparities were address in Senate E-12 Division hearing Feb. 14 called “Just Do It: Closing the Achievement Gap.”

Educational and community leaders joined together to testify about improving Twin Cities’ schools. Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius highlighted the progress that Minnesota made in closing the achievement gap. New data indicates that many districts and charter schools are on track to close the achievement gap by 50 percent within three years, Commissioner Cassellius stated during her presentation.

St. Paul’s Mayor Chris Coleman and Saint Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva, discussed the road to closing the gap. Mayor Coleman and Supt. Silva each stressed the significant demographic shifts in the community, with 76 percent of St. Paul Public School Students identifying as people of color.

Michael Goar, CEO of Minneapolis Public Schools, shared Minneapolis’s strategies to close the achievement gap including providing more time in school for students who need it with programs like a Spring Break Institute and working on Minneapolis Public School’s 260 community partnerships. One example of a community partnership was Generation Next, an initiative aiming to close the achievement gap in the Twin Cities. Former Mayor R.T. Rybak and Frank Fosberg, Generation Next executives, elaborated on the need to give every student the opportunity to be prepared for kindergarten, meet third-grade reading benchmarks, meet eight-grade math benchmarks, graduate high school in four years, and obtain any sort of secondary education certification or degree within six years after graduation.

Teachers Lee-Ann Stephens, the 2006 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and Nick Faber, a St. Paul Federation of Teachers member shared anecdotes and insights related to the classroom to close the gap. Growth and Justice’s Dane Smith said, to eliminate disparities, Minnesota needs to make long-term investments, rather than chasing “shiny new objects” and elaborated on the economic need to close the achievement gap. Chicano Latino Affairs Council Executive Director Hector Garcia focused on the need to provide equal opportunity to Chicano and Latino students who are going to contribute to a more diverse future workforce.