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Lucy Laney students improving, but not as much as first thought

September 1, 2018

Students at Lucy Craft Laney Community School have made strides academically in recent years, but not as much as initially indicated in the state’s latest comprehensive accountability measure.

A clerical mistake made it appear the 429-student north Minneapolis elementary school had lifted itself off the state’s list of failing schools, a designation it has tried to shake for nearly two decades.

News of the error came as a huge blow to the school’s principal.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Principal Mauri Friestleben said. For two weeks, she and the rest of the school have been celebrating the news of making it off the list of failing schools. “We’ve never stopped celebrating our successes regardless of a state designation. We just saw the state designation as a final frontier.”

Minneapolis officials incorrectly categorized the grade levels taught at the school, which resulted in higher marks in the state Department of Education’s new “North Star” accountability system. Lucy Laney remains among the lowest performing schools in the state.

“We have corrected it,” district spokeswoman Julie Brown said. “We’ve tried to review our system to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Of the 187 students who were tested, only 54 percent were proficient or exceeded proficiency in math. Of the 189 students who took the reading test, just 41 percent met or exceeded the standards. But in the past three years, Lucy Laney students have improved their test scores by 4 percentage points.

“They do have so many things to be proud of,” said Education Department spokesman Josh Collins. “But they still need support and we’re looking forward to providing that support to help them improve ... and to get them where they need to be.”

Minneapolis school board member Don Samuels said the school has wrestled with high teacher turnover and other challenges that needed to be stabilized. He praised Friestleben for what he called her tireless devotion to boosting achievement at the school.

“We can’t just look at the demographics of kids and say ‘this is a hopeless situation,’ ” he said.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203

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