Every Minnesotan needs to be engaged in helping close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said today.
Early intervention will be key to ending the lagging educational achievement of minority students in Minnesota said Rybak, who in January became executive director of the advocacy group Generation Next after finishing his third term in office.
He discussed his work on The Daily Circuit.
The coalition aims to improve opportunities for students of color in the Twin Cities. One of its top goals is to make sure children are ready for kindergarten.
Rybak said one way to do that is to screen every 3-year-old in Minneapolis and St. Paul for potential barriers to learning, such as hearing problems.
"It's going to be tough, but there are a lot of reasons we think we can pull it off," he said. "As we get more and more kids get screened, that kid who would have been acting out in second grade, we may find something at 3, so they don't have to be wasting all those years in school."
Rybak said Generation Next also is committed to ensuring that children can master reading by the third grade and meet math standards by eighth grade.
But he said closing the state's achievement gap - one of the worst in the nation - isn't only a matter of helping minority and disadvantaged students. He said it also entails teaching all children to better understand one another, no matter their backgrounds.
"Would we feel better if a bunch of white kids did worse? No," he said. "What we're really trying to do is to do, what for instance, the numbers in St. Paul show: Every single demographic group is doing better on graduation, including white students, all together."