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By August 8, 2018Foundation Blog

This is a happy post.

The Foundation just made over $2 million in grants to support amazing work at three Northside secondary schools (details below).  These grants mark a new chapter in our partnership with Minneapolis Public School’s (MPS) middle and high schools in North Minneapolis.  Funded projects are being led by inspiring educators who understand their students deeply and are courageously reimagining how school works.  All of this was shaped and vetted by our wonderful Community Advisors – 10 of the wisest, most collegial, observant and committed Northsiders you will ever meet.

Here’s a little more about these projects:

  • With support from a 3-year grant of up to $1,015,872, Patrick Henry High School will launch a social justice oriented project-based learning academy this fall to provide an innovative culturally relevant curriculum option to students who will benefit from real world experiential learning.  When fully enrolled, this school-within-a-school will serve upwards of 250 student.
  • Olson Middle School is using a 3-year grant of up to $911,040 to implement its “My Story/My Brilliance” project.  This school-wide initiative combines student journaling, personalized instruction, and additional counseling resources to create a customized and supportive learning pathway through middle school.
  • Franklin Middle School will continue to develop its new Student Advisory Council, and mentor teachers in culturally-responsive pedagogy with support from a 1-year grant of $75,000.

At this moment, the word that best describes my feelings about the people and ideas we are supporting is “abundance”.  Whether I think of great ideas, passion, empathy, practical insight, or dedication, I know that our school partners have these qualities in spades.

And yet, many think that the main thing that abounds in Minneapolis Public Schools is challenges.  Declining enrollment, budget deficits, wide achievement disparities and other vexing problems have defined the narrative about the District over the past few years.

These are very real and serious problems, to be sure.  But the story of Minneapolis Public Schools should not be just a recitation of challenges.  In our work, we uncovered an abundance of assets that give us confidence that public schools – at least on the Northside – have brighter days ahead.  Here are a few examples:

  • Students are passionate about creating better schools: We saw this at various stages of our strategy development process, on our Advisory Committee, and in student-led initiatives like the “Change the Name” campaign at Patrick Henry High School.  Northside youth are ready to work on improving their schools, and must have seats at the tables where decisions are made.
  • Teachers are upping their game: The work we are supporting was created, nurtured and championed by teachers. In every case, these projects call teachers to evolve professionally and relate differently to students.  This is hard work, but we are excited to see teachers leading their peers on the journey.
  • The community is rooting for District schools: Again and again in our conversations with Northsiders we heard a deep desire for better District schools.  We share their belief that these institutions play a critical role in anchoring the well-being of the community, and that the long-term vitality of North Minneapolis requires schools that welcome, affirm and challenge all of its children.
  • MPS is a great partner: The past two years of funding District schools has enabled us to get to know a host of smart and dedicated staff in MPS’ central office. Passion for student achievement certainly isn’t confined to the classroom.  These colleagues have helped us manage grant funds with great accuracy, understand and navigate District policies, think through our evaluation strategy, and align with core MPS strategies – all without delaying or watering down the vital work we are supporting in schools.

Do you see the through-line here?  It’s the people – an abundance of helpers, leaders and cheerleaders who are ready to do the hard work of transforming schools on the Northside.  We aim to support these changemakers so their ideas can be implemented, tested, improved and eventually scaled to benefit as many students as possible.  The potential of these projects is enormous; far greater, we believe, than the challenges that confront us.

Ah, abundance!  It’s right there if you just look for it.

Joel Luedtke

Author Joel Luedtke

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