Ames Elementary School Principal Delores Henderson stands on a stairwell landing directing noisy student traffic. She points black kids downstairs to the multipurpose room, Hmong students to the reading room around the corner, white and Hispanic kids to separate rooms up another flight of stairs.
In separate rooms, the classmates hear the same message from teachers of their own ethnic background and then from Henderson: This school was the best in the state two years ago on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment-II exams. You come from an accomplished culture, you are gifted, and we expect the same from you this year.
Quarrel with her divide-and-conquer strategy if you like, but it’s hard to argue with the results. While nine of 10 students in her St. Paul school come from low-income homes and 86 percent are children of color, test results are above average for the district.
‘A long way to go’
At St. Paul Public Schools, administrators frustrated with meager improvement in recent years set an ambitious goal of improving math and science by scores 10 percentage points this year. Then-interim Superintendent Suzanne Kelly announced the benchmark, calling the fact that more than half of the district’s students fail to meet reading and math standards an “unconscionable truth.”
St. Paul and Minneapolis have lined up hundreds of volunteer tutors. St. Paul has persuaded churches to open their pulpits to conversations about school and their community rooms to tutoring sessions. They have looked at each student to determine which individual skills need improvement.
|Students by Ethnicity||This School||Minnesota School Average|
|% American Indian||2%||3%|