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North Mpls. Science Charter School Raising The Bar

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In just its second year, the Minnesota School of Science charter school in north Minneapolis is raising the bar.

With an air of confidence, science student Jailynn Gainous doesn’t skip a beat when asked to explain her experiment.

“The purpose of the experiment is to observe the reaction between sodium and water,” said Gainous.

With lessons befitting kids studying higher science, she and her fellow elementary school students are pushing the envelope.

On a nearby table, another student experiments with holding balloons to the flame of a burning candle. Filled with only air the latex balloon explodes in a loud “pop!” But when Olivia places a balloon filled with a little bit of water to the same flame, the lesson is clear.

“The water is absorbing the heat,” explained Olivia.

The charter school has helped students raise their test scores in reading and math by a whopping 300 percent. That’s compared to what students tested when they were enrolled in what was formerly the City View charter school.

In addition, during fiscal year 2011-12 some 62 percent of MSS students evidenced high student growth in testing, compared to 35 percent of students statewide.

“We are a charter school, but what we are offering is a private school education here,” said MSS principal Mustafa Icel.

Icel points out that since taking over at the former City View, the approach to learning has changed. Underperforming students benefit from after school tutoring. Each teacher at MSS is required to make eight home visits to get to know a student’s family.

But as a STEM school (science, technology, engineering, math) the schools core function stresses hands-on learning in science and math.

“When we talk to parents we don’t go for any excuse. So once they enroll in this school we make sure kids are learning,” said Icel.

Not only have test scores improved dramatically, but the schools robotics team recently took second in the state. The finished second only to another team comprised of high school-aged students.

Robotics team member and fifth-grader Joshua Woods likes the school’s unique way of learning.

“You get to do hands on and not reading about other people doing it. Try it out for yourself,” said Woods.

Gene Scapanski is a Minnesota School of Science board member. He says what was closed due to under-performance in 2001 is meeting great success under a new direction.

“If the culture here is one of success, then that is contagious,” said Scapanski.

For more information about Minnesota School of Science, click here.

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