Anoka-Hennepin Schools earn top marks for black, Native American student performance

Nine schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District have been named as top-performers in the state for Black, Native American and Asian student performance, according to a report released by the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCAN).

“This is some of the best, most positive news that I have ever received,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson said. “It feels good to get some accolades and it’s especially gratifying for our students and staff to be recognized.”

The recognized schools include:

•   Anoka Middle School for the Arts (ranked seventh in middle school Native American student performance).

• Blaine High School (ranked ninth in high school English-Language Learners Student Performance).

• Champlin Park High School (ranked fourth in high school black student performance).

• Coon Rapids Middle School (ranked fourth in middle school Native American student performance).

• Coon Rapids High School: (ranked ninth in high school black student performance).

• Hoover Elementary School (ranked fourth in elementary school black student performance).

• Monroe Elementary School (ranked fifth in elementary school black student performance).

• Northdale Middle School (ranked ninth in middle school Native American student performance)

• Roosevelt Middle School (ranked 10th in middle school Asian student performance)

“We educate students of color better than almost every district in Minnesota, and that’s something we’ve known for some time” Carlson said. “Now, we have someone besides us saying that.”

MinnCAN, a nonprofit education reform advocacy group, released report cards for all 1,967 public schools in Minnesota, as well as a number of private and charter schools. The Top 10 lists were broken into six categories, including Black, Native American, Asian and English Language Learners (ELL)—and then school type: elementary, middle and high schools. Each subgroup’s performance score is an average of their reading and math proficiency at the highest tested grade level in that school.

MinnCAN Executive Director Daniel Sellers said the report cards are just one vehicle of information to help educators and parents better understand how well schools educate students.

“Great schools dot many pockets of the North Star state, yet we seldom take a stepback to recognize the schools that post commendable student learning and achievement,” Sellers said. “These Anoka and Hennepin-area schools should be on everyone’s radar for student learning, and we hope that the greater community can engage in conversations on why schools such as these are leading the pack so that we can better share proven strategies and best practices across all public schools.”

Reaction among principals at recognized buildings was that of tempered excitement.

“We’re excited to be named the top traditional high school in the state in black student performance, but we’re not satisfied. We’ve done a lot of work these past few years trying to close the achievement gap and we have staff here that is super dedicated to that work,” said Champlin Park High School Principal Michael George. “I told our staff: ‘congratulations, this is a great honor. But, feel good up until you read that there is 43.6 percent proficiency among our black students.’ We strive for and really need to be at 100 percent proficiency. While we feel good, and this validates the hard work we’ve put in, a sense of urgency is still there. We want 100 percent of our students to be proficient in math and reading. We’re excited, but the work isn’t done.”

Brian Mann, principal at Brooklyn Park’s Monroe Elementary Mathematics, Science and Children’s Engineering specialty school, said being recognized is the result of a total team effort.

“I’m extremely proud of this school and its incredible staff,” Mann said. “Not just the teachers—but the paraeducators, cafeteria staff, janitors—they all make the difference in student learning.”

Mann will soon join Champlin Brooklyn Park Academy as their principal.

While excited, Anoka-Hennepin’s school principals know there’s a long way to go to close the achievement gap and make lists like these unnecessary.

“While we feel good, and this validates the hard work we’ve put in, a sense of urgency is still there,” Champlin Park High School Principal Michael George said. “We want 100 percent of our students to be proficient in math and reading.”

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