Success Stories – Northside Achievement Zone

Sondra Samuels – President & CEO

One of Minnesota’s pioneering early childhood care and education leaders, the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) has been a positive force for children and families in Minneapolis since its beginning in 2012. A collaborative of over 40 partners, their community-focused approach has provided strong education outcomes for youth, compassionate guidance for parents, and real results for Minneapolis.


The Northside Achievement Zone mission is to “end generational poverty and build a culture of achievement in North Minneapolis where all low-income children of color graduate from high school college- and career-ready.” NAZ believes that all children are “scholars” reflecting their potential and inspiring the belief that children can and will go to college with coordinate systems of support from pre-natal to 18 years of age. Facing one of the worst opportunity gaps in the country for children of color, The Northside Achievement Zone is focused on improving outcomes for children with four goals:

1. Increase kindergarten readiness from 28% to 80%
2. Reading at grade-level by third grade from 16% to 70%
3. Grade-level math proficiency by eighth grade from 29% to 70%
4. Graduating on time, prepared for college from 51% to 80%

One key way NAZ is working towards achieving these outcomes is by fully incorporating parents and families into a child’s education through their family academies. These classes provide tools and strategies for parents to prepare their child for a lifetime of success. Classes are evidence-based and incorporate input from families who partner with NAZ. Additionally, families are connected with a licensed clinical social worker who meets face to face with families and works to understand their needs and to support children with behavioral health needs.

NAZ Family Achievement Coaches partner with North Minneapolis families to illuminate a path to college and bring in support along the way. Family Achievement Coaches work side by side with parents to propel NAZ scholars effectively through the NAZ solutions to college and beyond. The Family Achievement Coach builds trusting relationships, inspire a deep commitment from parents, and solidify the belief that their children will graduate from college.

Only 25% of children living in North Minneapolis start kindergarten ready to learn which is why NAZ is providing 148 state-funded scholarships in Fiscal Year 2018, to attend three- and four-star rated early childhood centers where children get the support they need. The latest data from NAZ showed that 209 children were enrolled in high-quality early learning centers in 2017.

Taken together, the results show that this access to high-quality early learning is making a big difference for these children. Participants in NAZ with early learning program and parent education classes were 2.5 times more likely to be ready for Kindergarten than their peers. These effects carry throughout a child’s education: children who participated in NAZ had higher math and reading proficiency scores though 8th grade than their peers who did not participate.

According to a report from the Wilder Research Foundation, the return on investment is $6 for every $1 spent. More than the economics, the Northside Achievement Zone is providing real results and opportunities for young learners who have been left behind. The Northside Achievement Zone is a true example of the power of early learning care and education that children and families deserve.