Statement on the MPS ‘Comprehensive District Design’

Dear Minneapolis Board of Education Directors:

Our organizations serve and represent thousands of Minneapolis families—of color, from underserved neighborhoods, and/or historically ignored or silenced. We request with utmost urgency that the Minneapolis Public Schools’ new strategic plan center on parent engagement and student learning—in addition to prioritizing operations and transportation. District staff has led the charge on a new strategic plan that has the potential to improve the district’s financial health and redesign district programming with intentionality. However, we’re concerned that the current approach doesn’t do enough to close opportunity gaps nor accelerate progress.

To appropriately meet the needs and assets of students and families across the city, the Minneapolis Board of Education should facilitate a process and adopt a plan that: 

1. Establishes substantive strategies to achieve academic goals
We’re encouraged that graduation rates at several Minneapolis high schools are improving. Concurrently, though, too few students in the district are reading on grade level–21% of black students, 27% of Latino students, 23% of indigenous students, 20% of English learners; this is compounded by nation-trailing graduation rates for students underserved (for example, 59% for those classified as English learners).

The Minneapolis Board of Education should commit to measurable academic goals that hold themselves and schools responsible. This could be achieved through school-specific targets (academic proficiency and growth, 5E data and/or other assessment data) that local schools help set. The district and schools should then communicate progress transparently against these goals.

2. Supports and improves classroom instruction
Every student deserves grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, teachers with high expectations who reflect the students in their school and positive adult-student relationships. These are foundational in improving academic outcomes. How will the district ensure every student receives this support, and that its teachers and staff are aligned—and ready?

Teachers and school leaders need on-going support to ensure instruction is standards-aligned and advancing learning for all students. This draft plan does not articulate how district leadership will address this fundamental need, nor how the best teachers and staff will be in the schools with the highest need.

3. Maintains a family’s right to choose their best-fit school
Most Minneapolis kids enroll in a school outside of their attendance area—regardless of school type or geography. As no two schools are the same, paramount is a family’s right to pick schools best-prepared to meet the academic, social emotional and cultural needs of their children.

The current plan would likely limit access to quality options through reduced busing for students living in attendance areas offering low-performing schools. This approach could, in turn, negatively affect district enrollment. A solution we believe to be more equitable, while also achieving transportation cost savings: Provide families in the lowest-performing schools’ attendance areas with priority enrollment to access our city’s top schools (then, for other families, default to restructured zones).

4. Allocates resources and talent by individual schools’ needs (vs. a fixed staffing model)
Students and families deserve a district in which resources—funding, effective teachers and leaders, programs—are distributed equitably. While the district strives for this by enrollment regions or zones (e.g., better access to advanced course offerings, which is admirable), it’s predicated on all schools working well for the communities they serve and appears some pathways are confined to specific schools. It is unclear to us if this creates segregated school communities or how predictable staffing is equitable.

We encourage the district to identify a process to distribute resources—equitably—to its schools. This shift should be paired with:

  • Transparency on school specific revenue and expenditures; and
  • Individual schools that are equipped with the flexibility and decision-making to better meet the needs of their students, including leveraging community solutions and partnerships that have demonstrated success with students.

5. Invites communities to the table
Lastly, Minneapolis families and community members need more time and more accessible opportunities to help the district finalize its strategic plan. While the district has been working on this plan for upwards of 18 months, the Minneapolis Board of Education has afforded the community only weeks to provide feedback. Families deserve—and are eager—to have an equal seat at the table. The district also should provide translated materials online and in-person, and interpreters at meetings, so that all community members can actively participate and have their voices heard.

We believe, with the addition of the above components, the strategic plan—and the process to develop it—can amount to real, tangible progress for the students enrolled in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Sincerely,

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