Harvest Preparatory School expanding to address achievement gap in North Minneapolis in partnership with Cargill - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Harvest Preparatory School expanding to address achievement gap in North Minneapolis in partnership with Cargill

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SOURCE Cargill Foundation

Cargill Foundation gives three-year $1.5 million grant to help the schools meet goal of educating 51 percent of Black students in North Minneapolis by 2021.

MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Closing the achievement gap is one of the top priorities for educators, advocates and business leaders in Minnesota. Black students in particular are on average more than 30 percent less proficient in reading and math than their White peers. These proficiency gaps foreshadow disparities in high school graduation rates and college attainment, factors that have business and community leaders worried about the future impact on the state's workforce and economic prosperity.

The North Minneapolis charter schools of Harvest Preparatory, Best Academy and Mastery School have demonstrated success in closing this gap.  In 2012 statewide standardized test scores for Black students attending the Harvest schools met or exceeded achievement scores for all Minnesota students, including scores for White students.

"Educational opportunity is the path to economic development in our community. Our schools are located in North Minneapolis, a community in the Twin Cities with the lowest income, highest poverty and crime rates in the state. It also boasts the highest concentration of children under age 18," said Eric Mahmoud, founder and president of the three schools. "While the students in our community face many challenges, they also represent our community's greatest hope and promise for the future. Our schools have proven that our children have the ability to learn at the highest levels when they believe in their own potential and are surrounded by adults that share and instill that belief in them every day."

Mahmoud has a vision to expand this success in an effort to transform the education paradigm in North Minneapolis through the creation of The Harvest Network of Schools, a standalone organization to manage the growth and development of the already existing three schools that function under his leadership. By 2020, Mahmoud seeks to increase the schools' enrollment by nearly one-third to approximately 3,500 students, approximately half of North Minneapolis' school-aged kids.

In addition to growth management, by creating The Harvest Network of Schools, Mahmoud looks to take the dramatic successes achieved at each school and grow their effect through an expansion of services and collaboration-strengthening their collective ability to focus on student achievement.

The Cargill Foundation announced on Wednesday that it is providing a three-year, $1.5 million grant to assist in the creation of the Harvest Network of Schools, which will manage services for its three schools. Specifically, the grant will support the development and implementation of a growth plan, which is focused on: planning, teaching, and student assessment; instructional leadership and coaching; school leadership, fundraising and financial management.

"At Cargill, we recognize that it is critical students in our communities are prepared to compete in a global workforce, regardless of their race or socio-economic status," said Scott Portnoy, Cargill corporate vice president and president of the Cargill Foundation. "Supporting programs and initiatives that are closing the achievement gap will arm all our students with the skills they need to succeed."

For the last three years Harvest Preparatory School and Best Academy have been ranked among the top 10 schools in the state of Minnesota that are "Beating the Odds." In 2013, Best Academy was recognized as one of the top five schools in the nation for educating boys of color by the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC). In 2012 and 2013, Best Academy was ranked number one in the state for educating Black middle school students. In 2012, Harvest Preparatory School and Best Academy received the Minnesota Business Futures Award, given to public schools with demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap.

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernadeia Johnson recognized the potential for a strong partnership with The Harvest Network of Schools, both to support the education of Minneapolis children but also to draw learnings from their success for schools across Minneapolis and statewide.

"Building great schools for Minneapolis students is my top priority and I am very pleased that The Harvest Network of Schools will be able to expand its offerings to children and families in North Minneapolis," said Dr. Johnson. "Whether it is public or charter schools, we need to be investing in excellence. Success requires cooperation and collaboration from educators, advocates and leaders at every level to make it happen."

The relationship between Cargill and Mahmoud that led to the grant began through the Learn Educate Advance Deliver (LEAD) for Charters program. The program, which connects school leaders with business executive mentors, paired Mahmoud and Portnoy together. Ever since, Cargill and Portnoy have remained strong partners as Mahmoud has worked to build the operational infrastructure for the school's expansion.

About Harvest Preparatory School
Harvest Preparatory School, a K-6 co-ed charter school founded in 1992, is located in north Minneapolis. Two schools located on the same campus have replicated the successful gap-closing model of Harvest Preparatory. They are Best Academy, a K-8, single-gender school founded in 2008, and the Mastery School, a K-3 (with plans to expand to a K-8) single-gender school founded in 2012 in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools. Collectively these schools have a plan to grow from 1,100 to 3,500 students by 2020. To manage this growth, the Harvest Network of Schools, a new charter management organization, will provide the highest quality management, human resources, administrative, academic, and development support for current and future schools developed under the Network.

About the Cargill Foundation
The Cargill Foundation invests in organizations and programs that demonstrate leadership and effectiveness in helping socio-economically disadvantaged children (PreK-12) improve academic performance and reduce systemic barriers to adequate nutrition to improve their educational success. The specific outcomes for these grants are school readiness (for pre-kindergarten children), improved academic performance (for K-12 children) and narrowing the achievement gap in Minneapolis schools. The Foundation also helps enhance the vibrancy and quality of life in the Twin Cities by supporting a select group of preeminent arts, cultural and civic institutions.


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