I am a bit confused how a suggestion to split Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) into six smaller districts would receive a kneejerk response of no or yes without taking a moment to critically think through the conditions that have contributed to the current realities of our district. This is not to say that I agree with the state senator who brought forth the proposal [Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie], because I do not. Equally important, it is not to say that I agree with district leadership’s position either.
As a former MPS teacher, current parent and MPS School Board director, my commitment is to the 35,000 plus students who are counting on the board and district leadership to make the mission of “every child college and career ready” a reality. The stark truth is that many children have been on the readiness trajectory and from this group some no longer need to entertain the pressures of test scores and adjustments in educational policy. There are certain MPS students who have their futures designed, manicured, and protected; their fate is set.
Others left waiting
Other students, however, equally brilliant, equally beautiful, are left waiting for their MPS educational experience to Shift. These students deserve a thoughtful, holistic response, supported by evidence, as to why they should believe in the current district plan, when the plan generates skepticism.
Let me be clear. I can state undoubtedly that district leadership is committed to the academic education of the city’s children. I can say that district leadership works diligently to be the first choice for Minneapolis families and to bring families who have left the district back home. Still, with these good intentions, gaps persist, urgency is fickle, and clarity surrounding districtwide excellence and equity is inconsistent.
Addressing the disproportionate educational conditions of our students should be a top priority for every level of government. However, the responses from the senator and district leadership are missing the characteristics described as SMART Goals: Specific (Goals must be clear and unambiguous); Measurable (Results must be able to be measured in some way, for example, the number of products sold each week, or the percent completion); Attainable (Goals must be realistic and attainable by the average employee); Relevant (Goals must relate to your organization’s vision and mission); Time-bound (Goals must have definite starting and ending points, and a fixed duration).
Challenge has been issued
We have seen — with the special education audit, Partnership with Early Learning with the University of Minnesota, Office of Black Male Achievement, English Language Learners funding and Foundational Programming — that district leadership can respond in thoughtful ways that are relevant. However, even these specific topics required families to wait far too long for a timely and respectful response, and these initiatives still require specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound goals.
The senator has spoken. The challenge has been called. It is time for district leadership to deliver a plan — and, equally important, deliver the outcomes and experiences that our students deserve. The fate of our district depends on it.
Tracine Asberry, Ed.D., is a member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board.
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