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St. Paul schools superintendent calls for change to help close achievement gap

St. Paul Superintendent Meria Carstarphen highlighted progress but called for more system change as the schools work to close the achievement gap Thursday in her State of the Schools address.

Here are excerpts from a speech summary written by Howie Padilla, my former colleague at the Star Tribune who now is a school district information dispenser. (The entire speech is available here.)

St. Paul Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen called for community-wide “belief in action” to realize and achieve the potential of all young people. Her 2008 State of the District Address was themed around “belief” and Carstarphen delivered it today at a breakfast. … The address coincides with the release of the district’s 2008 Annual Report. The report and Carstarphen’s speech are available online at

During her speech, the Superintendent outlined the progress of the district on its own accountability measures and detailed key initiatives for closing achievement gaps and ensuring high expectations for students. The speech both recognized community participation in public schools, and called for greater support. She reiterated the district’s efforts to sustain its commitment to student success in the face of ever-higher student achievement expectations.

Carstarphen outlined progress on the district’s aggressive Strategic Plan, which set annual benchmarks for success that go far beyond state and federal requirements. “Last year’s data show that we have made progress in all student groups,” she said. “While we are making gains, we are not reaching targets for all of our students. … Those targets were based not on what was convenient to reach, but what we would need to be on pace to meet the federal No Child Left Behind law, state mandates and this community’s expectations.”

Carstarphen highlighted the need for Large-Scale System Change, which will ensure that across the district institutional structures are reinforced for the work of closing persistent achievement gaps.  Included in this are community engagement meetings scheduled for November and December. “This district is at a crossroads,” she said. “Business as usual is not a sustainable option for achieving our mission.”

Carstarphen highlighted “power” action items from the district’s Strategic Plan for Continued Excellence under way or in planning this year:

• Developing and enhancing leadership districtwide;

• Ensuring cultural proficiency for all staff;

• Confirming Saint Paul Public Schools as a wise investment;

• Providing supports for all students to read at or above grade level by third grade;

• Providing effective transitions for students and their families, specifically when they enter school and move from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, and high school to post secondary;

• Improving efficiency and effectiveness; and

• Creating a districtwide model of classroom management.   

Carstarphen said that if we believe in shared accountability, schools need the partnership of families, businesses, policymakers and the community in order to see the kind of student achievement that will ensure all students are prepared for the future.

Carstarphen concluded her speech with optimism by acknowledging the many community partners that strengthen Saint Paul Public Schools. …

She praised all those who have taken the step to make good on what they believe, and she challenged everyone to do the same. “We must believe that all of our students have unlimited possibilities for greatness.  And it is our collective job to help them achieve it.  It is up to us to create, together, a sense of momentum around the possibility of making great things happen for our students and their families.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by David Cater on 11/09/2008 - 09:14 am.

    “This district is at a crossroads,”

    That’s funny because Saint Paul was one of the most celebrated school districts in the country when Carstarphen took the reins.

    It’s not funny because it’s our children’s future Carstarphen has been toying with and when things turn bad Carstarphen will do what modern day school superintendents do, move to another district and mess it up.

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