Minnesota’s Promise envisions progress for high school students

School administrators from across the state discussed strategies for getting K-12 children ready for college.

Lee Obermiller, Royalton Secondary School principal in Royalton, Minn., traveled more than 90 miles to attend a statewide secondary education meeting at the University of Minnesota in order to develop strategies on how to set up his 360 students for success past high school. The meeting of about 50 administrators and teachers across the state was put on by MinnesotaâÄôs Promise âÄî a group of past and present Minnesota superintendents, self-described as âÄúa call to action to create a coherent system of education in the state.âÄù Obermiller said school administrators attend the meetings to gain information from those knowledgeable on math teaching and to glean strategies helping high school students get ready for college. He said he forwards these thoughts on to his staff in Royalton. The state is not alone in trying to better the education of Minnesota youth. The city of Minneapolis established the Minneapolis Promise in 2007. Both initiatives share a similar vision, but MinnesotaâÄôs Promise is more directed to high school students, whereas the Minneapolis Promise is a cluster of coordinated efforts designed to eliminate barriers to post-secondary education, specifically for Minneapolis youth. Julie Sweitzer, director of leadership initiatives for the College Readiness Consortium , acknowledged the two initiatives share a similar goal, but there is a definite difference between them. Sweitzer said MinnesotaâÄôs Promise is more of a vision compared to the Minneapolis Promise, which is more like a program. On Feb. 11, the University, in conjunction with the Minneapolis mayorâÄôs office, hosted the I Know I Can initiative, a Minneapolis Promise program that placed volunteers, mainly comprised of university students, in various public schools in the city to speak about the importance of higher education to third-grade classes. The I Know I Can initiative was just the first step of many included in the Minneapolis Promise, Claudia Fuentes of the mayorâÄôs office said. Laurel Hirt , a coordinator in the UniversityâÄôs Career and Community Learning Center, said the University has many programs geared toward exposing children in primary and secondary schools to the idea of college. Hirt said the I Know I Can initiative was âÄújust one piece of a larger puzzleâÄù that they were trying to emphasize As for MinnesotaâÄôs Promise, Sweitzer said the initiativeâÄôs main focus isnâÄôt just graduation, but success preparation. She said too many students graduate from high school but wind up taking remedial courses, not accustomed to college study habits. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 65 percent of 11th gradersâÄô math scores partially met or did not meet the achievement level in 2007. Last year 63 percent fell in that category. With the implementation of a new standardized test for 11th graders, Obermiller said he was concerned about how students will perform. âÄúI think thereâÄôs a high level of students who will not pass the GRAD test,âÄù he said.