Study :: It’s Not Too Late When Kids Reach Adolescence

With all of the focus on early childhood education and the achievement gap, interventions for adolescents have increasingly been viewed as too costly and not worth the effort. A recent study shows why this assumption might not be true and how we can make a difference in the achievement gap with teenagers.

A University of Chicago research team is carrying out the first ever large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Match Education’s tutoring program over two years with 5,000 students in 15 Chicago Public School high schools. This tutoring intervention is designed to address the problem of academic mismatch (applying the wrong intervention for kids who are falling behind and exacerbating the downhill slide), providing youth with high-intensity individualized math tutoring – two-on-one instruction for an hour a day, every day (“tutoring on steroids”) – designed to help them catch back up to grade level so that they can reengage with regular classroom instruction.

First year results show that participation in Match improved student math test scores by the equivalent of an extra one to two years of learning for the typical American high school student; reduced math course failures by over 50%; and reduced overall course failures by over one quarter.  See the summary here and a New York Times Op Ed here.

Post contributed by Sara Sternberger.

What is Advocacy?

This is after all an Advocacy blog? Let’s take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page.

Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting, or making recommendations to influence change. People tend to associate advocacy with lobbying or politics – and it can be – but individuals can advocate for themselves or others too. Can you remember a time when you  spoke up for someone who wasn’t present or defended a friend? Advocacy just means “speaking up” and giving voice to our passions and principles.

The JLM Advocacy committee is working to define advocacy for its membership, engage members in a non-partisan way, and educate membership on the issues surrounding the achievement gap. It’s important that we raise our collective voice in favor of programs and policies which support our vision of decreasing the achievement gap.

WAYS TO ADVOCATE                                                                                                            

  • Creating public awareness through education – sharing data and stories to persuade
  • Blogging
  • Communicating with your elected officials and encouraging others to do the same
  • Writing a letter to the editor


  • Social media
  • Promotional materials
  • Letters to the editor
  • Opinion Editorials

Attend the Advocacy event “Coffee & Conversation with Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff” on Saturday, March 21st from 9:00am-12:00pm to take a deeper dive into the world of advocacy, understand how you can become civically engaged and hear from  Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff on her journey and current priorities. See the JLM website for more information and registration.

Additionally, please post comments on the articles and links you see. Nothing educates people more than a great conversation!

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

Feeding Hungry Students: One New Mexico Teacher Making a Difference

The day’s lesson isn’t the first thing on Marvin Callahan’s mind after the first school bell rings. Instead, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, teacher wonders whether his students have eaten. His routine begins by asking each one of his first-grade pupils what her or she ate for breakfast that morning.

“I have kids that come to school every day and they’re hungry,” Callahan said. “They can’t come in here and be at their best.”

Every day, the 20-year veteran teacher spends a chunk of his own salary to feed hungry kids in his classroom. For the kid who came to school on an empty stomach, Callahan either sends the child to the cafeteria or simply walks over to the supply closet behind his desk for some food. Many teachers at Comanche Elementary School use their own cash to buy supplemental food for their hungry students. More than 60 percent of the kids at Comanche qualify for the federal free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Callahan said that the school lunch is the last meal of the day for many students. He began to think about what his kids were facing after Friday’s dismissal bell. So Callahan and the school counselor, Karin Medina, started a backpack program for the Comanche students who need the most help on the weekend. Every Friday, kids from 25 families get meals and two snacks to take home, enough to fight their hunger pangs until Monday arrives.

The Comanche backpack program is not an official nonprofit, nor does it have any outside funding. The program doesn’t even have a name. However, even without a name, it serves as an example of community generosity, which has others aiding it. A local business brings by boxes of food weekly, and a Boy Scout troop has donated money twice this year.

Teachers feeding their students isn’t uncommon in our nation’s schools. In fact, 73 percent of teachers have hungry students in their classes, according to a report issued in 2013 by the advocacy group No Kid Hungry.

(Taken from a collection of articles and interviews from the fall of 2014. Google Marvin Callahan for more information.)

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

How Children Succeed Praise

A couple weeks ago Renee Evansted blogged on a wonderful book, How Children Succeed. This week, I would like to take the opportunity to tag onto Renee’s post and point out a few of the ways that the Junior League of Minneapolis is furthering some of the ideals laid out in the book, and also point out a few areas where we have the opportunity to get involved. You can read the previous blog post for more context on the book, and it also linked to an article that summarizes the book:

  • One of the things that is important for children to be able to succeed as adults is self-control. The Economist article (above) summarizes, “children who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional environments generally find it harder to concentrate, sit still and rebound from disappointments. The part of the brain most affected by early stress is the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for regulating thoughts and mediating behaviour.” This characteristic begins in very early childhood. The JLM makes a significant difference in this space with the Crisis Nursery, founded by the JLM and community partners. The Crisis Nursery provides a safe place for the children of distressed, and oftentimes disadvantaged, families.
  • The H.O.M.E.S. project, a newer one for JLM, focuses on equipping parents with ways to continue Math, Engineering and Science actives through hands-on projects in their homes. One charter school that the book spends a lot of time on, KIPP, is having a lot of success in closing the achievement gap with its students. KIPP cites “Choice & Commitment” as one of their five pilars, or operating principles. A key componenet of this pillar is commitment and involvement from parents. The H.O.M.E.S. project focuses on exactly that.
  • As JLM members, you know and have participated in numerous other ways the league makes a difference toward our chosen issue. However, this book, and the KIPP model in particular, illustrate additional things that are having a profound impact on children’s success. I’ll outline a few of them as food for thought in the new year.  How can the JLM, or you as an individual, advocate and work toward closing the achievement gap by focusing on some of these things:
    • High Expectations – KIPP has high expectations for academic achievement and accepts no excuses based on a student’s background.  Who are the right partners for the league and what are the right projects in this space, if any?
    • More Time – KIPP has an extended school day, week and year, allowing more time for learning. How does the JLM provide this outside the classroom, or how could/should we?
    • Choice and Commitment – I mentioned this one above but it’s worth thinking about since it has been well researched that higher parental involvement and higher academic achievement are correlated. Parental involvement can be thought about in the context of the league or also personally for those who have children, nieces, nephews, etc. The involvement and commitment piece for KIPP also extends to teachers and students. Are there things we can do in the league to driver ownership and commitment within one or many of these groups?

I will echo Renee’s recommendation – How Children Succeed  is a worthwhile read, and it’s inspiring to recognize that the JLM is already involved in many of the critical components that put children on the path to success.

Post contributed by Kacie DeWolf.

JLM wants YOU to vote on Election Day!

It’s hard to believe we’re less than one week out from next Tuesday’s (Nov 4th) Midterm Elections.  This is a super important day for us to cash in on one of our rights and make an impact in our local, state and national government.

Some of you have been following the local and national coverage of this year’s election and know exactly who you’ll be voting for – to those, I salute you for your diligent preparation!  For others that have been changing the channel every time a campaign ad comes on the TV (and quite frankly that could be all of us), fear not! There is still time to learn about the candidates and issues to make an informed decision.

To help you out, below are some of the hot topics and big candidate races (nonpartisan, of course).  theSkimm (a fun and easy to understand news source) has a Midterm Election Guide and it’s geared toward those who aren’t in “the know”.

Hot Topics

  • The Senate.  The Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2006.  That plus Obama has its benefits, but the Republican party (also known as the Grand Old Party, i.e. GOP) has had enough.  If the Republicans gain control they will own both the Senate and Congress.
  • National topics haven’t changed much.  The state of our economy, immigration laws and foreign policy continue to be top of mind as voters head to the polls.
  • Minneapolis specific City Amendments:
    • Filing Fee for City Elected Offices.  Some city council members want to increase the price of entry to run for positions like mayor.  Remember when we had 20+ candidates running for mayor in 2013 including Captain Jack Sparrow? Yeah, some people don’t want that again.
    • 70/30 Liquor Licensing Requirement. Have you ever ordered a glass of wine in a South Minneapolis restaurant and been forced to also order food?  That’s because many restaurants are required under law to gross at least 70% of their sales from food.  Many believe this law is antiquated and stifles the growing restaurant scene in our neighborhoods (it also forces restaurants to increase their food prices).  Opponents say we need to keep our neighborhoods clean & quiet.

Minnesota Gubernatorial

  • Currently being held by Mark Dayton (D).
  • Who is running?
    • Mark Dayton (D) – The guy basically runs Minneapolis (think Borough, Askov Finlayson and old school Dayton-Hudson’s).  He wants to come back.
    • Jeff Johnson (R) – Not so fast Dayton! Jeff has is a former State Representative and current Hennepin County Commissioner.
    • Chris Holbrook (Libertarian)
    • Hannah Nicollet (Independent)
    • Chris Wright (Grassroots)

Minnesota Senate

  • Currently being held by Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D).  Al Franken’s seat is currently up for election.
  • Who is running?
    • Al Franken (D) – Wants a re-election.
    • Mike McFadden (R) – Franken’s biggest threat to the seat.  He has worked in the financial sector prior to this campaign.
    • Steve Carlson (Independent)
    • Heather Johnson (Libertarian)

Minnesota Congress

  • Minnesota has 8 congressional districts and each district elects a representative to the House for a two-year term.
  • There are several districts that cover the Greater Twin Cities area given the dense population.  District 5 covers the majority of Minneapolis but depending on your home address you may be in District 2,3 or 4.

Other races include Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Representative, County Commissioner, County Attorney, Sheriff, School Board Director, Supreme Court Justice, Court of Appeals Judge and District Court Judge.  Phew, that was a lot.

You can also find more information by visiting the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get involved and I hope this does the trick. Our only ask – get out there and VOTE!

Learning To Play – A Unique Perspective of Empathy

This week, the JLM Advocacy blog features a post by two guest bloggers from the Junior League of Minneapolis’ Project Development Committee: Kelly Chaffee & Amy Spiehler.

We all want to consider ourselves as empathetic people, but what exactly is empathy?

This is a question that the Project Development (PD) committee focused on at the beginning of the League year.  Working with direction from the book Creative Confidence, our team was encouraged to be on a mission to approach problems from the perspective of the people we serve, rather than the creation of a solution to “fix” a perceived problem.  So together, we attempted to figure out how to hear the voices in our community.

In our second committee meeting, the group welcomed speaker Merri Lynn Jono, a former 4th grade teacher of Green Central Park Elementary School in Minneapolis.  Merri Lynn was introduced to the Junior League when her daughter was invited to attend the American Girl Fashion Show, an annual Junior League fundraiser.   Merri Lynn loved the show and wanted to find a way to extend the great experience her daughter had to her 4th graders at Green Central.  The next year, she contacted the Junior League of Minneapolis (JLM) and asked to bring some of her students to watch the show.

Back at school, Merri Lynn leveraged the American Girl curriculum in her after-school programming and her girls loved it.  Merri Lynn found ways to make the stories come alive.  When they were reading about Victorian-age character Samantha, Merri Lynn even took her students to the Victorian-age Alexander Ramsey House in order for the girls to learn about local history.

Merri Lynn shared the story of one of her students who loved the Josefina character so much that her father was determined to get her the doll. On the last day of school the girl was so excited about her new treasure that she asked Merri Lynn to come to her house that summer to play American Girl dolls.  As Merri Lynn sat down to play dolls, making little voices and creating stories of what the dolls were doing, the little girl was taken aback, giggling and shy that Ms. Jono was making play voices!  Merri Lynn realized that this little girl, like many of the students she had seen before, had never learned to play and to use her imagination to create story lines around her playroom.

It really struck the PD group that a little girl might not understand how to interact and play with a doll.  Project Development realized that part of teaching kids to read requires the inclusion of the softer skills of learning: having  fun while you’re in a lesson so that it really sticks with you, being a kid and being awed by something that you’ll keep going back to learn more.  Merri Lynn’s story really struck our hearts as she showed us the perspective of her students.  Project Development continues to find way to integrate empathy in all of our community conversations and we really appreciated Merri Lynn joining us to show us the value of it.

Minneapolis School Board Adopts Plan to Eliminate Achievement Gap

Last Tuesday night, the Minneapolis School Board approved an aggressive plan, named Acceleration 2020, to eliminate the achievement gap in the Minneapolis School District.  The Board consulted a variety of stakeholders including community partners, parents and department leaders and staff in order to achieve buy-in and to ensure the plan is successfully implemented across the district.

The plan contains 47 measure that the Board will monitor over the next six years which will address the following areas of focus:

  • Improved Student Outcomes
  • Equity
  • Family & Community Partnership
  • Effective Teachers, School Leaders & Staff
  • Stewardship
  • Resources for Students & Schools

All measures support the district’s ultimate goal: to close the 50% gap in math and reading proficiency rates between white and students of color by 2020.

Acceleration 2020 Information

The Impact of Parental Feedback On A STEM Career

A powerful, new Verizon and Makers ad, narrated by Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani, subtly suggests that the feedback that young girls hear from their parents, teachers or other authority figures, may influence their pursuit of a STEM-based education or career.  The persistence of these stereotypical statements may result in significantly more boys interested in STEM careers than girls by the eighth grade.

In order to close the gap, the National Science Foundation indicates that parental support can increase a girl’s interest in STEM subjects.  Increased images of women in STEM professions provide girls with a greater sense of the opportunities that exist in college and beyond.


State-Funded Pre-K Enrolled Declines While Funding Increases In 2013

A report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) indicates that state funded pre-K funding rose by $36 per child in the 2012-2013 school year but that enrollment decreased by 9,200 students in the same time period.  The report, which tracks national trends in pre-K enrollment, quality, and spending, also indicates that number of states meeting NIEER quality benchmarks remained flat to 2012.