In recent years, our community’s long-standing history of valuing and investing in K-12 education has confronted increasing exposure to systems that are steeped in inequities and far too few changing-the-odds schools for students.
Our community owns one of the worst opportunity gaps in the United States, from reading fluency to graduating high school. Consider that Minnesota’s middling graduation rate trails Wisconsin by eight percentage points, Illinois by five and Iowa by 10. To say these odds are challenging is an understatement – they’re reflective of the underlining inequities of our education system.
But select schools, across all sectors, provide students with a rigorous and relevant education (explore them in ‘Minneapolis School Finder’). Local foundations – which have helped fund education for generations – have been eager to replicate success and transform the education system so all students can access a great school. Toward convening foundations around systems change, a shared vision of rigorous and relevant schools for all students, and strategic planning with broader communities, The Minneapolis Foundation incubated what was then called the Education Transformation Initiative. In summer 2015, we spun off from the foundation as MN Comeback, a non-profit coalition.
In our foundational years, we completed systems mapping via interviews with 150 educators, community leaders and funders to identify highest-impact levers for systems change: recruit and retain extraordinary educators, engage and empower families, advocate for supportive public policy, and help schools access quality facilities. Through this qualitative research, our coalition also rallied behind work that is school-centered.
These levers are the basis of our strategies and grant-making. To this day, the families, educators, advocates and funders who share a commitment to systems change and a belief that all students can succeed guide our work. While historic efforts to strengthen K-12 have been well-intentioned, but largely disparate or incremental, our coalition is unique in that it offers the education space much-needed coherence and a shared agenda grounded in transformational change.
Turning our community’s education system around may seem impossible. Not to us. We know it’s doable because we see it happening already. Voices that were previously unaligned are now united. Resources are gathering and the momentum is growing. We’re making a Minnesota comeback.