St. Paul, Minn (January 11, 2011) – Saint Paul Public Schools is set to tackle a persistent achievement gap armed with new research about the students, families and facilities that make up the District. At a breakfast presentation Tuesday morning at St. Paul’s Town and Country Club, Superintendent Valeria Silva demonstrated how the District’s self-reflection was key to setting the road to academic, budgetary and enrollment success – a path that leads families to strong schools ready to build strong communities.
“Before we could look at what we were going to become, we needed to take a look in a mirror at what we truly are,” said SPPS Superintendent Valeria S. Silva. “Through that examination, we looked beyond perceptions and observed some stark realities.”
SPPS has proven itself to be a district where small gains in student proficiency and pockets of excellence are to be celebrated. It also is a district where at least half of the students are struggling to reach proficiency levels in state mandated reading and math exams. Similar to school districts across the country, SPPS has programs with extremely high achieving students, yet still battles with a persistent achievement gap.
Tenets of the Strong Schools, Strong Communities plan call for consistently rigorous instruction in each classroom at every school through:
• Managed instruction where the District oversees the core educational functions across all schools.
• Six established geographic areas that promote learning close to home and aligned curriculum across all schools.
• Sustainability that includes collaboration with unions, the city of Saint Paul, Ramsey county and funders to preserve programs, services and staffing. Through centralized funding, resources will be better distributed where they are needed while investing in programs with proven results.
Strategies that have been implemented in recent years and have been successful, such as collocating schools and expanding successful programs, will continue as will decisive action to address programs which are not sustainable. It is the shift in culture that has become the District’s signature in recent months.
“In the last year, there has been a marked culture change in Saint Paul Public Schools,” said Michael Newman, vice-president of Travelers Foundation, which funds initiatives in the District. “…Change is not always popular, but I believe Superintendent Silva is the kind of leader that will always choose what’s best for students. And at the end of the day, that is pretty hard to argue with.”
When Silva’s plan is brought to fruition, it is expected that:
• The District will be stronger with additional students taking advantage of what SPPS has to offer.
• Proficiency rates of students increasing to at least percent in state mandated reading and math exams.
• Revenue will be generated though increased enrollment.
• Facilities and resources will be used more efficiently, reopening some spaces, which had been vacated in recent years.
The SPPS Board of Education is expected to take action on the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal at the March 15, 2011 regular Board of Education meeting.
“These changes to the way we will educate our students – bringing education closer to our students’ homes, revamping transportation so students are spending less time on buses and ensuring that our students have the same opportunity to quality education no matter the classroom or school – are what our families demand and deserve from us,” Silva said. “And as the Heart of the Community, we will demand this of ourselves. The results of this plan will be our legacy.”