The 2012 Campaign


The Robins, Kaplan, Miller, & Ciresi (RKMC) Foundation for Children is launching a major public service campaign to call attention to Minnesota’s glaring achievement gap and to push for workable solutions to close it.

Minnesota, despite the excellent reputation of its public education system, has one of the widest achievement gaps of any state in the country. For example, 88 percent of Minnesota’s white third grade students are proficient in reading vs. 38 percent of its black students and Minnesota’s black fourth graders rank just above Alabama’s black students in reading.

The campaign, which includes skyway banners, print, online and radio ads, represents a significant effort by the foundation to engage the community in discussing and solving a vexing education problem in Minnesota. The ads don’t just raise the issue, but suggest possible solutions and encourage a broader public discussion about how to close the achievement gap.

“We wanted to address a critical problem facing Minnesota’s children and one that directly affects the future economic success of the state,” said Michael V. Ciresi, president and chair of the board of the RKMC Foundation for Children. “The achievement gap affects every Minnesotan in some way,” Ciresi said. “We need to close the gap sooner rather than later. Every child can learn. We need to give every child the right tools.”

Since its founding in 1999, the RKMC Foundation for Children has awarded more than $9 million in grants to educational programs and organizations and another $3 million to social justice and public health programs.

Media Coverage:
  1. Campaign draws attention to disparity in student achievement (MPR – April 2, 2012)
  2. Foundation launches achievement gap ad push (Star Tribune – April 5, 2012)
  3. It’s time to close the achievement gap (Star Tribune – April 8, 2012)
  4. Philanthropy beat: Skyway campaign focuses on learning (Star Tribune – April 16, 2012)
  5. Ad Campaign Highlights Achievement Gap (Spokesman Recorder – May 16, 2012)
  6. Mike Ciresi on Education Equity (MinnPost – May 30, 2012)

Teacher Effectiveness: Supporting Classroom Excellence

Student learning is critically linked to teacher effectiveness. Yet, Minnesota’s strict seniority-based policy prioritizes seniority over performance. Ending seniority-only layoffs will help our schools keep the best teachers in the classroom.

We also know that it’s important to invest in teachers’ success, and have seen how stronger instructional teams can support student learning. High-performing schools like Hiawatha Leadership Academy and Harvest Preparatory take advantage of instructional teams to support individual students, share student progress, and collaborate on techniques and strategies.

  • Teachers are the most influential school-based factor in student’s life and achievement..
  • 98 percent of principals report having lost a teacher to layoffs they wanted to keep.
  • 96 percent of Minnesotans believe student learning progress should be an important factor in determining which teachers to lay off first.
  • Join MinnCAN’s campaign to keep the best teachers in the classroom.
  • Celebrate great teachers and support, replicate, and spotlight effective teaching strategies.
  • Get involved in your neighborhood school and help create a culture of high expectations and accountability that supports student learning and achievement.

Spotlighting Success

Teachers Team Up for Student Success
Harvest Preparatory Academy

Did you know that there is a school that has closed the achievement gap? Students at Harvest Preparatory Academy scored above the statewide average in reading, closing the gap between white and black students.

The schools’ “no excuse, whatever it takes” attitude toward student success, set high expectations for the schools’ predominantly low income students of color who in return, met and exceeded the state’s average. With its students outperforming their peers in reading and math by 46% and 100% respectively, Harvest Prep shows us what’s possible.

At Harvest Prep, each classroom has two teachers who share instructional responsibilities. This arrangement allows for more individual attention and small group work with students, and it creates a space for teachers to share student progress and collaborate with one another to improve student success.

Effective teachers can and do make a difference in preparing our students to success in life, college, and career.

Fueling success in the classroom
Teach for America

To close the achievement gap, Teach For America recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools; trains these “corps members” to have an immediate positive impact on students; and fosters the leadership development of program alumni as they address the problem from beyond the classroom.

Teach for America launched a Twin Cities chapter in 2009, placing teachers within district and charters schools that serve high percentages of low-income students. One of these teachers, Patrick Tanis, led his students to 2 years average growth in math and 1.9 years in reading in just one year by creating individual reading plans, requiring an hour of reading per day, sharing best practices with veteran teachers, and supplementing his math curriculum corps.

Tanis is not exceptional among Teach for America corps members. A 2004 study found that students of Teach For America corps members attained significantly greater gains in math compared with students of other teachers.

Source information available upon request, please contact us

Early Childhood Education: Investing Early Pays Off

Closing the gap before kids enter school is the most effective way to prepare our kids for a healthy and productive life. Our state earns a $16-to-$1 return on investment for every early childhood education dollar, making it one of the best investments our community can make. Yet, only 50% of kids statewide are ready to learn when they start school.

  • Kids who start school not ready to learn are at a disadvantage and often never catch up with their peers.
  • Kindergarten readiness is associated with 3rd grade reading proficiency, which is a key indicator of school success. Students with limited reading skills are more likely to exhibit behavior issues, repeat a grade, and eventually drop out of school.
  • If we don’t prepare our kids early, we all the price pay later and risk our ability to compete in the global economy.
  • Spread the word about the Parent Aware Rating Tool, our state’s new childcare rating system that helps parents make smarter choices about their children’s early years.
  • Contact your elected officials and let them know that early education is important for our state and region.
  • Volunteer your time or donate to a nonprofit that supports early childhood education advocacy, engages parents, or provides opportunities to low-income, kids of color.

Giving Kids a Healthy Start
YWCA of Minneapolis Early Childhood Education Program

The YWCA of Minneapolis’ anti-bias curriculum ensures that children from all backgrounds are ready for school, and an impressive 90% of the center’s kids are proficient in school readiness standards when they start kindergarten. Is this the anti-bias curriculum at work? Or perhaps it’s the special intervention and family services the YWCA offers?

The YWCA knows that engaging with families from the get-go is critical. The organization works tirelessly to engage parents and make sure that they have the resources and referrals needed to support their kids. The YWCA also operates an innovative program called the Bungalow Business Development Program working with Somali and Latino childcare providers to improve educational outcomes for kids.

The organization’s culturally-sensitive approach to care is working well. Just last year, 96% of their children throughout their centers demonstrated age-appropriate development.

The Right Tools: Giving Our Kids a Winning Formula

 More classroom time, stronger instructional teams, continuous evaluation, and a strong and consistent cultural mindset of high expectations make a difference in the classroom. Unless we make these essential ingredients available to all students, the achievement gap will continue to widen and threaten the future of our state and region.

  • Every child, regardless of their race, economic status, or zip code deserves a high quality education and equal opportunities to lead a productive and successful life.
  • Our prosperity depends on the success of our children and every individual participating in our workforce.
  • Students who don’t succeed in school are often destined for un- and underemployment, poorer health, and a host of other social issues. Additionally, educational outcomes are often associated with lower crime rates, less reliance on social assistance programs, and higher civic engagement.

Beating the Odds? Nope: Setting the Bar.
Hiawatha Leadership Academy

In Minneapolis, only 1 in 3 Latino children are prepared when they start Kindergarten. For the kids who start school at Hiawatha Leadership Academy, it’s an even more challenging 1 in 5. That’s what makes their success all the more remarkable. With a “no excuses” attitude and use of proven tools for student achievement, their students make more than one and a half year’s academic progress for every year of instruction. They close the gap and bring all students to proficiency by the sixth grade, if not before.

Among their methods: more time in the classroom – they have just six weeks off in the summer; stronger instructional teams – their teachers collaborate on behalf of individual students and continually challenge themselves to improve instruction; and close tracking of student progress to make sure every child masters the material.

The results? Over 80% of Hiawatha’s 4th graders scored proficient in reading. Serving low-income, predominantly Latino and African-American students, Hiawatha has closed the achievement gap.

Here’s an article about Hiawatha Leadership Academy from MinnPost.

Source information available upon request, please contact us .

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