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Twin Cities education 'not living up to' potential, nonprofit says

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A nonprofit education group announced it's been given $4 million to help reduce the achievement gap in Twin Cities schools – after its annual "report card" highlighted major racial and socio-economic disparities.

Generation Next, helmed by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, found a lack of progress is being made to improve results at schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"You are not living up to your potential," Rybak said to adults in the local education community as part of the report.

In 2014, fewer than half of students (39 percent) read at grade level by the time they reached third grade, and only 42 percent were at grade level in eighth grade math (down from 44 percent in 2013).

One area trending in a positive direction is four-year graduation rates, which rose to 61 percent in 2014 compared to 56 percent in 2013 and 52 percent in 2012, the report says.

In most categories, the report notes there are "significant gaps" in achievement between racial and ethnic groups, with particular concern over the graduation rate for black students, which stands at just 31 percent.

"One of the great communities anywhere around, number one city for so many things, also happens to be number one for the largest gaps between kids of color and the rest of the population, and that’s not acceptable," Rybak said at a press conference Thursday, according to the Star Tribune.

The findings come a few weeks after a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education identified the Minneapolis as having one of the lowest graduation rates for major urban areas in the United States.

The Generation Next report contains warning signs for the future prospects of Twin Cities students once they leave school.

It says that projections for Minnesota indicate 74 percent of jobs in the state in 2020 will need some kind of post-secondary degree – yet fewer than half of students in Minnesota go on to get a post-secondary degree.<

$4M contributions to improve screenings, childcare quality

The Southwest Journal reports the nonprofit announced $4 million in donations on Thursday, with $1 million coming from Greater Twin Cities United Way.

This will go towards the "Screen @ 3" initiative to expand early childhood screenings to an extra 7,000 kids by 2018, focusing particularly on children of color and American Indian children.

Early childhood screening identifies health and developmental needs before a child enters kindergarten, according to St. Paul Public Schools.

A further $3 million, three-year grant from the Bush Foundation will be used to "increase the number of high-quality childcare providers in the region," the newspaper notes.

Generation Next found just 28 percent of early childhood programs are rated as high quality in the Twin Cities, while only 8 percent of the 436 licensed family childcare programs are high quality.

The nonprofit says quality early childhood care is "critical to improving long-term outcomes."

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