Shannon McParland

Shannon McParland
Sioux Trail Elementary School
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191
Burnsville, MN

Favorite Music

“Anything my 8th-grade daughter listens to,” most recently Scars To Your Beautiful by Alesia Cara.


Burnsville public schools are becoming increasingly diverse and their achievement gap is growing. Fifty-five percent of students are minorities, an increase of 10% in the last five years. Trail Elementary School has been racially, linguistically and culturally diverse, and students had seen uneven success.


In 2014 McParland launched a Culturally Proficient School System (CPSS) pilot program in her school, asking teachers to assess their own values, beliefs and biases, and then recognize and respect students’ cultural practices and histories. Teachers were required to be vigilant in adapting to cultural differences in all their work, whether planning field trips, lessons, or homework assignments. Students adopted this new respect for diversity, showing it in their relationships with peers. Two years in, McParland reports that the CPSS approach has significantly erased achievement gaps, reduced classroom disruptions, and increased participation. In 2016 the district expanded CPSS to all of its schools.

Lessons Learned

Honor staff members where they’re at and give them time to incorporate CPSS principles. Set aside enough time for staff meetings and professional development to allow teachers to share their frustrations and experiences. The full support of the superintendent and the school board are essential.

Shannon’s Job

Oversees the education of 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Shannon’s Background

One of 10 children, grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm. Graduate of Saint Cloud State Univ. (BA, ’88), MA from Hamline Univ. (’99). Taught at an affluent private school, worked at the Minnesota Department of Education, became a principal in 2013.

Startling Fact

Loves exotic travel (like hiking around Bali or living for weeks on a boat at the Great Barrier Reef).

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