Over the years, Hennepin Elementary School in Minneapolis has chipped away at the achievement gap between poor, minority students and their wealthier, white peers. This school year, like in years past, they'll be pulling out all the stops to celebrate.
The school's staff throw dinner parties for families, and students have sported celebratory T-shirts with “We beat the odds” on the back, to commemorate the success.
“It’s just really nice to be recognized for the fact that we’re closing the gap,” said Julie Henderson, executive director of the Minneapolis charter school.
Hennepin Elementary is one of 75 high-poverty schools in the state that we've identified as "beating the odds." These schools did significantly better on standardized tests last year than would be expected in either math, reading or both.
These schools show promise that it is possible to boost test scores of low-income students to match the scores of their wealthy peers, with math proficiency rates between 50 and 90 percent. Other high-poverty schools in the state had a combined average math proficiency of 35 percent.
Though racial achievement gaps are often discussed, research shows that poverty is the primary factor in school-to-school test score variations.
Each year, the Star Tribune identifies high-poverty schools that are “beating the odds” using a statistical analysis on math and reading results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. The analysis calculates an expected proficiency rate for each school, based on its poverty level. Schools with an actual proficiency score at least 10 percentage points higher than the expected score are considered doing better than expected.
Thirty of the 75 schools that beat the odds last year are in the metro area, though the lion’s share of schools doing better than expected are outstate.
Outstate schools like Sleepy Eye Elementary in Sleepy Eye, Harrison Elementary in Brainerd, St. James Northside Elementary in St. James, United South Central Elementary in the United South Central district and Karlstad Elementary in the Tri-County district have had three straight years of beating the odds on both math and reading tests.
They join metro-area schools including Carver Elementary in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, Higher Ground Academy and Global Academy in beating the odds on at least one test each of the past three years.
Hennepin Elementary is pleased with its math results that have consistently surpassed expectations, Henderson said. The kindergarten through sixth-grade school is opening up a middle school for seventh-graders next year.
“We want to make this generation ready to be the leaders and the future of Minneapolis,” she said.