“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” ~ Michelangelo Buonarroti
The 90-90-90 goal, based on Doug Reeves’ (2003) research in schools with high poverty, high diversity, and high performance, is the goal at Como Park Elementary School. According to Reeves (2003), this 90-90-90 goal is represented by 90% or more of the students being eligible for free and reduced lunch, 90% or more of the students as members of ethnic minority groups, and 90% or more of the students who have met the district or state academic standards. Como Park Elementary is similarly aligned to these demographics with 85.8% poverty, 90.5% diversity, and demonstrating 91% medium to high growth in math, and 83% medium to high growth in reading, based on the 2015 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (Minnesota Department of Education, 2016), with our continued focus on the achievement goal of 90% proficiency.
In the past, I have been told that this 90% achievement goal is bold and lofty. My response is: Why would we not believe and expect that our students can and will accomplish this goal? I believe as Ziglar (2016) stated, “if you can dream it, then you can achieve it.” To set up a success model, we must first believe, next set a goal, and then find a way to accomplish that goal. Believing and setting high goals are connected to mindset (Dweck, 2006). Shifting into a growth mindset holistically, regardless of any situation, is essential for growth. By exercising mindfulness (Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2016) and remaining in a growth mindset, I believe we can ultimately accomplish our 90% achievement goal for all students.
Believing, setting a goal, and expecting to reach the goal may be a starting point, yet the question remains: “How” can we accomplish this goal? An overarching “how” at Como Park Elementary is being mindful of keeping students at the center of everything we do. If we are going to close the achievement and opportunity gap, we must keep students at the center in order to accelerate learning.
In working toward accomplishing the 90% achievement goal at Como Park Elementary, not only do we work at keeping students at the center, we also have an overarching focus on equity work using Culturally Relevant Teaching (CRT) pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Singleton, 2005). During the past five years, we have worked gradually and strategically to integrate the equity work holistically and school-wide. This overarching focus and integrated culturally responsive pedagogy enhances the teaching and learning practices. These practices are supported through ongoing, strategic professional development and standards-based instruction, based on Doug Reeves’ (2013) school reform work. In addition, the intentional implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), using the data process, including assessment, analysis, and reflection based on DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many’s (2006) work, have been integral to our forward movement.
To maintain this forward movement toward the 90-90-90 goal (Reeves, 2003), Como Park Elementary has established three main components for “how” we are closing the achievement gap. These include: The Standards for Instruction, Personalized Learning, and Equity Work focused on Culturally Relevant Teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Singleton, 2005). An overview of these structures was presented at an invitational Minnesota Senate Committee Hearing with the Senate E12 Senate Committee on November 10, 2015, highlighting Minnesota school successes. Figure 1 provides a detailed outline of the three foundational components that support Como Park Elementary’s work in driving student achievement through high expectations for both staff and students.
Figure 1. A detailed outline of Como Park Elementary’s components for supporting student achievement.
Finally, it is noteworthy that Como Park Elementary has been designated by the Minnesota Department of Education as a Celebration Eligible school for the past two years. We have nearly reached our academic goal with approximately 90% medium to high growth based on a growth model of closing the achievement gap. In addition, we are gradually closing in on our bold and lofty goal of 90% achievement.
“We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.”
~ Lisa Delpit
Principal Christine Vang
Como Park Elementary
St. Paul Public Schools
Buonarroti, M. (2016). Michelangelo Buonarroti quotes. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/182763.Michelangelo_Buonarroti
Delpit, L. D. (2012). “Multiplication is for white people”: Raising expectations for other people’s children. New York: New Press.
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). What is mindfulness? Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
Ladson-Billings, G. (Summer, 1995). But that’s just good teaching. Theory into practice, 34(3), 159-165.
Minnesota Department of Education (2016). Minnesota Report Card: Demographics: Como Park Elementary. Retrieved from http://rc.education.state.mn.us/#demographics/orgId–10625431000__p–3
Reeves, D. (2013). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Singleton, G. (2005). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Ziglar, Z. (2016). BrainyQuote: Achieve Quotes. Retrieved from