Student experiences share rich nuances with what has major impact on academic achievement and the well being of the district’s student body. Young people are able to identify the barriers that are causing inequity in their schools, and the solutions to combat it, because they are facing it directly. Students are also capable of identifying the solutions based on what’s worked for them.
To see what students identified as necessary to improve their experience, student achievement, and equity across the district, download the full report above.
“ More transparency about the pathways to advanced courses; I didn’t know early on what courses led to future courses. Start in freshman year to figure out how we can introduce students of color to advanced courses. ”
Welcome to MPS
Young people are rarely asked to analyze their own experiences and inform the issues that need to be solved in schools, even though they are the most directly impacted. Throughout the Spring of 2019, we had over 50 conversations with students across Minneapolis to better understand their experiences, and the problems they face.
Student experience in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is complex. It is painted with varied reflections on academic support, social factors, resources, and opportunities. Our hope is that future conversations about the issues facing Minneapolis Public Schools can be grounded in the reflections of the young people consulted for this report, and inspire opportunities to elevate their truth.
“ 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.”
T’nia Riley, North Community High School
My experience in K-12 got me ready for
college. Whittier really set me on the right
track early on. The K-5 IB program
was really good.”
Drew Byrne, Washburn High School
I didn’t really learn anything in high school. I just went through the motions.”
Shiheina Munye, Patrick Henry High School
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade (as measured by NAEP at the beginning of fourth grade) can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development.
A national study links failure to read proficiently by third grade with being four times more likely to drop out from high school than proficient readers.
Young people identified a wide variance of support and effectiveness in reading instruction across MPS, which leads a student’s reading proficiency to depend on the amount of support provided at home.
“ I didn’t have books that really interested me at school. I wasn’t really pushed to read at home either; we didn’t have a lot of children’s books and I wasn’t read to. Whether it was the activities we were doing or the materials we were reading, I didn’t really feel supported until 3rd grade where they realized I was behind. Teachers really supported me then
Gabe Spinks, Edison High School
“ If you don’t like the school building you’re going to, you’re just not going to want to be there. I barely went to school the last two years. I got headaches everyday because of the heat during some months. I just
couldn’t learn like that.”
Shiheina Munye, Patrick Henry High School
“ It all boils down to money. North is worse than Southwest because it can
be. This school should not have all these things when another school is working with hand-me-downs. It’s not a coincidence when you think about a school that is a predominantly white versus black school. ”
Azhae’la Hanson, North High School
Research on school facilities and productivity suggest that the quality of buildings affects learning. Conditions like clean air, good light, quietness, comfort, and safe learning environments encourage higher academic outcomes. Comments from students regarding the quality of their school buildings were the most detailed and recognized as a physical consequence of inequity.
We compared the number of students who had negative opinions about the quality of their school building and materials (desks, books, etc.) with MPS’s heat map showing the concentration of students who identify as white. Buildings in areas with a low concentration of white students were lower quality, according to respondents.
“ Students in advanced classes. White students. Students who have money. Those are the ones teachers equate with capability.”
Collin Robinson, Southwest High School
“ I don’t see how one half of the district gets to receive some classes and the other half of the district doesn’t. 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 to different types of courses”
Jada Lewis, Edison High School
System-Wide Racial Inequity
Students connected their experiences of racial inequity to structural K-12 systems with less access to advanced courses or high quality facilities. At the same time, students are invested in improving MPS and believe there are equitable solutions that exist to create a district with high expectations for all students.
MPS’s school climate data provides another layer of analysis in students’ experience of racial inequity. There are major differences in what is offered, and the quality of education that is received, based on the school students are enrolled in. Young people often mentioned resources and the district budget as the mechanisms that create this inequity.
Students of Color were more likely to respond that:
- They do not enjoy being at their school compared to their white peers.
- They do not feel like they belong at their school.
- They do not feel safe in their classrooms.