Aiming to close achievement gap in North Minneapolis

The celebrated Harlem Children’s Zone education project is inspiring copycats around the nation. One of these is ramping up in North Minneapolis. The Northside Achievement Zone hopes to help families support their kids, close the achievement gap and replace it with a culture of high achievement that gets all children in the zone to college and beyond.

The Northside Achievement Zone is a 13- by 18-block area on Minneapolis’ north side bounded by 35th Avenue on the north, West Broadway on the south, I-94 on the east and Penn Avenue on the west. The area has about 5,500 households with an estimated 7,500 children.

Why this geographic area was chosen for the project, according to the Northside Achievement Zone:

Minnesota’s 4th grade reading scores had the 5th largest achievement gap in the nation–only 12% of African American children in Minnesota were reading at grade level on the national assessments in 2007 (Vanneman et al., 2009). In the Jordan Neighborhood, at the heart of the Zone, 13% of eighth graders passed a basic skills test in 2006. And in 2008, while Minneapolis’

four-year graduation rate for white students was 69.5%, it was just 33.5% for African American students (Minnesota Department of Education, 2010).

Gwendolene Hollins, one of the community activists recruiting new families to the Northside Achievement Zone, says:

We are on the verge of opening up a floodgate. I think that word of mouth still is the best form of advertisement for anything. When we are successful with connecting our families with our partners and getting them where they are trying to go and helping them get past their barriers they share that with other people, either in their families or communities.

The Northside Achievement Zone works with community organizations to provide families in the program with support services – like childcare assistance, parenting classes, transportation, career assistance – anything they need to be stronger and more hopeful about the future.

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