Minneapolis Public Schools move forward with strategic planning and review recommendations
On November 6 the Minneapolis Board of Education reviewed the nine recommendations that were presented to them by McKinsey and Company, who has been working with the district, free of charge, on the board’s strategic planning. McKinsey and Company looked at district data, researched education reform from other districts across the country and held focus groups with various Minneapolis school stakeholders. These are the highlights of the recommendations taken from the district website:
Recommendation One: Restart or replace the lowest-performing 25 percent of Minneapolis public schools to dramatically improve their performance by 2012. All schools in this segment would be strengthened regardless of type. Each would require a different strategy, and an Office of New Schools would be created to launch sponsored charters, self-governed schools and internal restart models. Restarted schools may include enhancements such as all-day Kindergarten, pre-K program or partnership, longer school day or year and/or more staffing. In addition, the highest-performing schools would be given more autonomy to innovate in order to further improve their achievement.
Recommendation Two: Raise expectations and academic rigor for all students in order to reach the college readiness goal. McKinsey’s research found that challenging coursework leads to higher test scores regardless of a student’s academic ability, and that students who enter high school in the lowest 25 percent learn more in rigorous classes than in courses they would have traditionally enrolled in. Included in this recommendation are: increasing expectations for all students, aligning the curriculum with aggressive standards; raising the rigor of coursework across the board; and providing academic, English Language Learning and behavior support, as well as increased teacher training.
Recommendation Three: Develop Minneapolis Public Schools’ principal corps and give principals the power, training and support to lead great instructional teams. Principals are second only to teachers in their influence on student achievement, according to McKinsey’s research. Among other recommended actions, school administration managers would be hired so principals could devote 80 percent of their time to instruction and school leadership, rather than administration; underperforming principals would be removed.
Recommendation Four: Develop teachers as leaders and give them tools and support to get excellent results. Research is clear that teachers are the most important ingredient in student achievement. Recommended actions include more effective professional development, more time for common planning, more frequent data about how students are doing, reduced class size or more staff in targeted situations, better support for behavior and instructional strategies for various student populations such as English Language Learners and special education, and the removal of underperforming teachers.
Recommendation Five: Set clear expectations for all staff, reward successes, and develop or remove low performers. In order to increase transparency and focus interventions, the report advocates developing and publishing easy-to-understand “school report cards” at the school and district level, as well as reviewing the performance of all MPS staff frequently to reward outstanding staff and remove underperformers.
Recommendation Six: Transform relationships and partner with families. Family involvement is essential to successful schools. The report recommends measures to ensure that district staff are “culturally competent” in working with families of all backgrounds, and that transparency about how the district operates be improved in order to build better relationships between families, their schools and the district.
Recommendation Seven: Correct and stabilize the district’s financial situation. The aggressive academic improvement goal cannot be achieved unless the district addresses its $100 million budget shortfall forecasted over the next four years, according to the report. Recommendations include better management of high-cost areas such as health insurance; reimbursement for unfunded mandates such as special education costs; and full reimbursement for services that the district provides to Minneapolis students who do not attend district schools, such as transportation to and from the school of their choice.
Recommendation Eight: Commit to supporting a network of great schools for all Minneapolis kids. The report encourages the district to take a new attitude toward so-called competitors, including charter schools. Recommended actions include creating partnerships with those offering high-quality educational experiences, which could include sharing best practices, services and facilities. The report also advocates for a “level playing field” so that Minneapolis Public Schools can operate with cost and operating burdens that are more in-line with other education options.
Recommendation Nine: Build widespread support for change. The report lists measures that government, businesses, the broader community and the district itself must take to “move past the blame game to a shared game plan” and to make the bold changes needed to achieve the district’s goal.
The district will meet with Area A (North and Northeast) parents and community to get feed back on the recommendations on December 3 from 6:30 8:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Urban League 2100 Plymouth Av. N.