Students state noticeable inequities in local schools
NOTE: Students for Education Reform/SFER refers to our previous legal name
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jan. 30, 2020
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — On the heels of a packed and tense Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) board meeting on Tuesday, January 14, Students for Education Reform (SFER) is proposing recommendations for the comprehensive district design through a new report released today of key findings from conversations with over 50 MPS students and recent graduates about their educational experiences. While many Minneapolis parents have recently spoken out on this issue, this is the first opportunity the public has to hear directly from MPS students about their lived experiences in local schools, with concrete student suggestions for improvement. Students identified lack of teacher diversity, lack of access to advanced courses, and poor school facilities as barriers to quality education. Based on these responses gathered during the 2018-19 academic year, young organizers are seeking five specific actions by the board:
Equitable access to advanced course offerings and quality facilities for students across the district
Sustainable financial investment in schools across North Minneapolis
More teachers of color who reflect the diversity of the students they serve
New initiatives and transparent data to ensure every student is on track with reading by 3rd grade
Implementation of anti-bias training for all MPS adults to ensure teachers, staff, and administrators honor the limitless potential of all students
“I don’t see how one half of the [Minneapolis Public School] district gets to receive some classes and the other half of the district doesn’t,” Jada Lewis, Edison High School student, shared with Students for Education Reform during her interview for the report. “I think if we are going to close the achievement gap and come together as a district we need to give students an equal opportunity.”
Student experiences echo findings recently shared in a Washington Post study that Minneapolis Public Schools has a substantial teacher of color gap at 50.5%, with 65.8% of the district’s 36,531 students identifying as people of color compared to a mere 15.3% of teachers. More than 50% of the young people surveyed in SFER’s report said students of color are treated differently by teachers and administrators. An additional report by the U.S. Department of Education highlights that a lack of teacher diversity leads to lower high school graduation and college entry rates among students of color. South High School student Robeira Legese says “it became apparent there weren’t really many teachers of color, especially by 11th and 12th grade. There was a white teacher teaching African American studies, so I decided not to take it.”
Students for Education Reform’s local Minnesota community of 3,000 predominantly black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation college students believe that having equitable resources across Minneapolis Public Schools would create greater learning outcomes for all students. T’nia Riley of North High School shared that “being a Minneapolis student was really hard. It felt like we didn’t have opportunities and resources. The opportunities that we did get felt very limited and we had to fight for them.”
Additionally, 45% of students interviewed by SFER had unfavorable opinions of their school building. “My school building doesn’t have many windows, so it feels like a prison. Where I live shouldn’t determine how good of a facility my school provides,” said Glenda Young Shinnick, student at North High School. To achieve its stated goal of equity and long-term viability in a comprehensive district design, MPS would need to embed solutions for these critical barriers to learning. Students’ proposed recommendations would prevent further deprivation of a significant number of students, especially students of color and low-income students, help alleviate the burden on teachers, and stabilize MPS enrollment for a sustainable future.
“The Minneapolis Board of Education needs to take bold steps and have the political will to redistribute the resources across the district, so every child can receive a high quality education,” said Kenneth Eban, SFER’s Senior Director of Organizing for Minnesota. “Students from across Minneapolis have done the work to share what they believe is necessary to create a better education system, now it is up to the adults to decide if they are ready to listen.”
About Students for Education Reform
Students for Education Reform (SFER) develops college students into grassroots organizers who fight for educational justice in their communities. Our experiences and stories of overcoming educational inequality are undeniable and validate the demand for transformative change in our K-12 system. We fight for high academic standards, access to quality teachers and the right for families to choose the best school for their child, especially in communities that have historically been left behind.