Home > Minika Jenkins, Chief Academic Officer PPS, is dedicated to improving academic performance

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PUM ONE ON ONE:  MINIKA JENKINS Chief Academic Officer, Pittsburgh Public Schools

 

Ms. Minika Jenkins recently joined Pittsburgh Public Schools as the Chief Academic Officer leading the Office of Curriculum and Instruction. She has been an educator for twenty-one years and has held various leadership roles producing a record of continuous improvement working in large, urban school districts improving student achievement. Prior to joining PPS, Ms. Jenkins served as the Executive Director for Secondary Reading and ELA in Jacksonville, Florida, where she worked directly with school-based administrators, coaches, and teachers to improve student achievement while implementing high-quality curriculum and assessments including curricular programs and resources. Some of her success can be seen through the increase in Graduation Rate over a five-year period from 67.7 percent to 80.8 percent, as well as narrowing the achievement gap between White and African-American students and White and Hispanic students in a four year period. Additionally, eighth-grade students in Duval County ranked #3, and African American students ranked #1 on the 2017 NAEP results compared to other TUDA districts. Before becoming the Executive Director for reading and ELA, Minika Jenkins served as an Assistant Principal in Miami-Dade County Schools where she was responsible for overseeing all English Language Arts teachers as well as collaborating with other curriculum administrators to support reading and writing in the content areas. Ms. Jenkins has also served as a Curriculum Support Specialist for Miami-Dade, and as a Reading Coordinator for Differentiated Accountability with the Florida Department of Education supporting schools in the nation’s largest 15 districts Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade. She was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio to a loving mother and father and is the proud mother of a daughter attending the University of Florida.

 

 

PUM: Ms. Jenkins in your position for Pittsburgh Public Schools as the Chief Academic Officer leading the Office of Curriculum and Instruction you will oversee the district’s early childhood, career and technical education, gifted and talented, and curriculum and instruction departments. Your position was created by Superintendent Anthony Hamlet to support the district’s lowest-performing schools. What is some of your immediate goals and strategy in your new role?


Ms. Jenkins: Ensure curriculum alignment to PA Core, provide wrap-around services to support instruction in the classroom from professional development to active coaching cycles and monitor implementation of newly purchased district-adopted instructional materials.

 

PUM: You have been an educator for twenty-one years and have held various leadership roles producing a record of continuous improvement working in large, urban school districts improving student achievement. From your vantage point how are you going to utilize your experience and expertise to help improve student achievement in PPS schools?

 

Ms. Jenkins: In all of the leadership positions that I have held, I make it a point to get in the trenches of the work. It’s easy to sit at the top and make decisions, but it is hard to push the job if you are far removed from what happens during daily instruction. Walking classrooms, providing professional development, sharing best practices, guiding and supporting education alongside administrators, coaches, coordinators, and teachers is vital to improving outcomes for students. Often times, district initiatives are pushed out with little understanding of the day to day operations, frustrations, and ongoing work in schools. By being willing and able to roll up my sleeves and be a part of the work, one gains a working knowledge of how to support schools. Additionally, examining what students are doing can serve as a catalyst to guide decisions at both the district and classroom level.

 

PUM: As one of the key leaders for the district how will you utilize your role to help transform PPS schools to improve academic achievement?

 

Ms. Jenkins:  As the Chief Academic Officer (CAO), my primary task to improve academic performance is in the creation of aligned curriculum and assessments and providing professional development, support, and opportunities for ongoing calibration to ensure students receive high-quality instruction, daily. School transformation begins by focusing on the “whole child” and not just academics. As the CAO, I have the opportunity to collaborate with various departments to assist with identifying and addressing the needs of students and our schools that will bolster academic achievement.

 

PUM: Some of your success is attributed to your work to help increase the Graduation Rates as well as narrowing the achievement gap between White and African-American students and White and Hispanic students, tell us more about your work in this area.

 

Ms. Jenkins:  I attribute much of that success to students. It was their hard work, dedication, and commitment to graduating college and career ready that lead to increased graduation rates and the narrowing of the achievement gap.  However, it was my job to provide the pathway and the support for student success in the classroom and beyond high school. My focus first began by examining where the achievement gap was significant and delving into root causes that were within our control as an educational organization. That gap was literacy. Many of our African-American students were not passing the state reading assessment, which was one of the graduation requirements and much of that was due to the complexity of the text. In short, reading was a challenge for many students. I began focusing on addressing reading challenges in sixth through twelfth grade by first establishing the specific areas that were hindering student comprehension. Assessing students was always a point of contention, specifically, if it took time. However, teachers and students began to see the value of identifying the areas of greatest challenge and working together to create solutions that will not only help the student with reading but assist with comprehending complex text. I also saw the focus on reading as an opportunity to support students beyond high school. I implemented an ACT/SAT preparation course first with our most challenged eleventh and twelfth-grade readers who needed additional assistance and later added tenth-grade students and all eleventh and twelfth graders who were not deemed college and career ready. I believe the shift to focusing on student challenges while creating a pathway beyond high school was the key to increasing graduation rates and narrowing the achievement gap.

 

PUM:  As a mother of a college educated daughter, what message would you share with other parents about  how to successfully navigate a public school education?  What advice do you offer for working as a team in helping to achieve academic excellence?

 

Ms. Jenkins: Navigating public education is not difficult but does require time. Take time to learn about the educational opportunities for students at the district and school level.   Get involved. District expos are ideal for learning about various programs that are offered throughout the district. Peruse and read the district and schools’ websites. Show up to events not just for athletics, but academics. Make sure your contact information is accurate and read everything that comes from the district or your school via mail or through your student. Knowing the educational opportunities and day to day operations of the district will allow parents to team up to help their child achieve academic excellence; however, it is equally important to meet the principal and share in the decision-making process for your child’s academic schedule, specifically in middle and high school. Attend an open house to meet the teacher and begin opening the lines of communication. Last, but most important, get to know your child’s goals and dreams and be their advocate, but teach them to advocate for themselves.

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