District takes important steps with Achievement and Integration Program

Stillwater+Cultural+Liaison%2C+Cornelius+Rish+is+new+to+the+school+this+year.+His+role+is+to+create+and+supervise+initiatives+that+help+reduce+racial+disparities%2C+and+help+improve+the+cultural+climate+throughout+the+district+and+community.+

Photo submitted by Cornelius Rish

Stillwater Cultural Liaison, Cornelius Rish is new to the school this year. His role is to create and supervise initiatives that help reduce racial disparities, and help improve the cultural climate throughout the district and community.

Charles Calderone, Business Editor

In response to recent events and students’ push for racial justice, the district has released a new Achievement and Integration Plan for 2020-2023, revolving around five main topics of focus. The second area of focus is Family and Community engagement to help reduce racial disparities around the district.. 

This plan, organized by Reimagine Minnesota Initiative, was formed after a group of officials looked at the areas of strengths and weaknesses in terms of Minnesota education. Together, they came up with 12 different strategies to improve the Minnesota schooling system. These strategies were formed to help reduce the racial disparities in many areas around Minnesota. These factors were key in deciding the different areas that the Achievement and Integration Plan would focus on.

“Minnesota is known around the country as being a phenomenal state in education, but yet we have one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country,” cultural Liaison Cornelius Rish said. “Minnesota also has a huge economic gap between racial groups in this country, especially the gap between the black citizens and white citizens.” 

The main goal of this academic and achievement plan is to reduce racial disparities throughout the school. This will come through different programs such as AVID. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and student’s in the program commit to a rigorous course. This program usually takes the students throughout all four years of high school and prepares them for college

According to AVID teacher Ing-Marie Ryan, the main standards of the AVID elective include “Student Agency, Student Empowerment and Leadership of Others,” as well as “Academic Preparedness, Opportunity Knowledge, College Preparedness and Building Career Knowledge.” All of AVID’s curriculum is geared towards giving these students the best chance to succeed in college.

This plan is an essential part of our work in public education to provide high quality educational opportunities, experiences, and instruction for all students. I strongly believe the Equity and Integration Plan provides a vehicle to lift up all voices in our community.”

— AVID Teacher Ing-Marie Ryan

AVID helps students succeed by enforcing the WICOR framework. WICOR stands for Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization  and Reading. This framework helps teachers implement the academic preparedness standards installed in the AVID program. AVID’s enforcement of this framework is proven to work when used on a daily basis, especially when all teachers are using this format.

“If we do all of this as teachers and students each day, it is proven to increase achievement,” Ryan explained. “We have focused on using these instructional practices — specifically Organization and Collaboration — with the BARR teachers, and I’ve helped with that effort.” This is yet another example of AVID working to implement new ideas and strategies throughout the program. 

Another main focus point of this plan is to make sure all the students receive an equitable education. The creators of this plan understand that not every student needs the same thing to succeed, and every student needs a tailored approach to their own education. 

“Equality is different from being equitable,” Rish said. “Equality means everybody gets the same thing, equity means you get what you need in order to be successful.” 

Rish stated how it is important that students do not get a cookie-cutter education plan, and how students should be receiving the proper tools to make themselves successful in the future. 

Another big part of this plan is focused on family and community engagement. This program wants to make sure the families of these students are well connected to the school in order to help the students succeed, especially at Stillwater. This plan is aiming to help families with obstacles such as language barriers, or families with two working parents have a bigger voice in the school community. 

“Our families are our constituents, you look at a school as a business, the families are our customers, our consumers and so family engagement gives family voice about the education process,” Rish said. He went on to say how important it is to make sure families are involved with their children’s education and providing them the support they need to be successful inside and outside of the classroom.

“This plan is an essential part of our work in public education to provide high quality educational opportunities, experiences, and instruction for all students,” Ryan said.  “I strongly believe the Equity and Integration Plan provides a vehicle to lift up all voices in our community.”