"This academy is a breakthrough step in our responsiveness to raising student achievement," said Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of schools. "We are excited to try something new that has the potential to grow into a program that could support learning during other school breaks." Minneapolis Public Schools also announced a proposal to appropriate $1 million of the FY15 integration budget to expand learning academies for future spring and winter breaks.
Johnson emphasized the efforts of the school district to redefine instructional time, such as targeted year-round instruction, longer school days and years in some programs, use of Saturday school and academies over breaks, and improvements for instructional and transition time. Sullivan, Folwell and Andersen schools provide a Saturday program for English Learner students; all but one MPS high school hold International Baccalaureate preparatory courses on Saturdays; and Henry, Edison and Washburn high schools are piloting credit recovery programs on Saturdays. "Students need more quality time in school, not simply more time in school," she said.
The five-day Spring Break Academy will give students added instructional time and opportunities to catch up or accelerate in class work. The academy will emphasize core subjects, while also providing enrichment opportunities that make learning exciting. Focus areas include reading and math, preparation and tips for test-taking, special science projects and developing the mindset to work hard and smart in school. Students will also participate in engaging activities provided by Community Education and partner organizations.
Minneapolis schools will contact families of students who will qualify for the academy and although students are not required to attend, they are highly encouraged to take advantage of this learning opportunity. The 13 schools previously identified to receive midyear interventions are prioritized to offer the academy, however, other schools may have the opportunity to participate. The academy offerings will be based on the availability of staff and students who are able to participate.
District and school leaders are working to attract teachers who have relationships with students to participate in the academy. Teachers will receive a $2,000 stipend to teach over the break. MPS has also collaborated with its community partners and Community Education to help provide the enrichment portion of the program.