Leading all students across the finish line

The Star Tribune this week shared gains toward student achievement regarding Minnesota schools. We’re always thrilled by movement that gets our community close to the end goal: All students attend – and thrive in – rigorous and relevant schools. And that “all” is inclusive of black and brown students who are far too often not a priority or considered intention in our society. 

To get fully there, we need a community of great schools centered around the conditions students need to succeed (grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, high expectations). Collectively, we’re not quite there yet.  

Minnesota ranks 35th in the nation for high school graduation rates. It’s easy to couch a half percentage point increase in overall graduation rate as a win until you dig underneath the hood a bit and find that for students who are marginalized because of economic class or race, the graduation rates are even lower: our state has the second-lowest graduation rate for indigenous students, the lowest for Latino students, the lowest for black students and the seventh-lowest for low-income students.

In Minneapolis alone, 40,000 students attend a school where nearly half of the population is living in poverty. Only 10 percent of these schools are high-performing – but they have twice the growth and almost four-times the proficiency rates of low-performing schools. In order to close the gaps and afford EVERY child the opportunity to succeed, we need more great schools that work for students from underserved neighborhoods. 

Here are some schools leading a low-income and racially diverse student population down the path of college and career readiness; examples schools in our community that need to improve can look to for ideas: 

  • At Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, 100 percent graduate in 4 years, 92 percent of the class of 2019 were accepted to college and 85% of their alumni have persisted through college.
  • At South High School and Washburn High School, their graduation rates are 79 percent and 82 percent respectively – higher than the district average of 69 percent.

In addition to learning from schools that work, we appreciate education Commissioner Ricker referencing a school’s ability to select curriculum most relevant for the students they serve as a piece of the solution for increasing student achievement. We want to see not only this tailoring for school communities, but the flexibility for school empowerment worked into our education system that allows for this to happen well at scale. 

Great schools can change the trajectory of a child’s life. We hope to see more practical and innovative thinking from state, city and education leadership that sets Minnesota students up for success in college, career and life. Maybe next year we’ll jump ahead of Wisconsin!


– Nyemadi

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