I believe that the addition of All Day Kindergarten was the most important educational change in my 35 year career in pubic education. In St. Louis Park, we used this opportunity to not just add more time, but to totally remodel our kindergarten program. We looked at research and studied Minnesota schools that were getting great results. We formed a task force comprise of our own teachers and designed our new program. We purchased new materials and provided a lot of training and support for our teachers. In the past, about 40% of St. Louis Park's kindergarten students entered school "at grade level" in literacy and about 60% left kindergarten at grade level in literacy. This past year, 85% of our kindergarten students left kindergarten at grade level in literacy. More importantly, all racial groups were just as likely to meet the end of year benchmark. There was no achievement gap.
Another area where we have seen success is in increasing the number of Black and Hispanic students who take and pass college level classes while in high school. In our case, these are Advanced Placement (AP) classes or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Ten years ago, we had less than a dozen Black and Hispanic students taking these courses. Today, we have over 160 Black and Hispanic students taking over 300 AP and IB classes. Several years ago, we hired a teacher who acts like a talent scout. She searches for talented Black and Hispanic students who are capable of taking these course, but on their own, they are not likely to register for them. The teacher talks to these students, introduces them to AP/IB teachers, and assist them with the registration process. Once the classes begin, she supports the students by leading study groups and providing emotional supports. She also take her students on college visits and organizes other post-secondary supports for them. This system works very well.
A third area where we have found success is in increasing the four year graduation rate for our Black and Hispanic students. Our graduation rate for Black students has remained around 80% and our graduation rate for Hispanic students recently climbed above 90%. We have done this by focusing on 9th grade passing rates. Students who pass all their 9th grade classes almost always graduate in four years. We use a program called Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR) which was developed at St. Louis Park High School to increase the number of students who pass all of their 9th grade classes. In a typical year, we now have 85% of our 9th grade students passing all of their classes, which means that four years later, our graduation rate will be at least 85%.