MINNEAPOLIS (Feb. 19, 2014) — Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) announced Wednesday that four-year graduation rates have increased 7 percent over the past two years and the racial graduation gap has narrowed for the second year in a row.
The school district experienced across-the-board graduation rate increases for each student ethnicity group, with the most significant increases for African American (about 7 percent), American Indian (about 12 percent) and Latino students (about7 percent). The four-year graduation rate increased about 4 percent in 2013, a trajectory that shows signs of significant improvement.
“I am proud to see these positive gains and I commend our teachers and staff members for their tireless efforts in preparing students for their futures,” said Michael Goar, chief executive officer. “We will continue our focus on accelerating learning in an effort to make significant—not only incremental—gains and prepare substantially more students for college and careers.”
While notable gains were made for students of color in the school district, a consistently low graduation rate of less than 40 percent for African American, American Indian and Latino students continued to persist. Goar expressed urgency to make even greater progress to close the achievement gap.
“We must focus on supporting black and brown students in more aggressive and effective ways,” he said, noting efforts of the Shift movement that Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of schools, announced last week, including the establishment of the Office of Student Achievement and an initiative to focus on black male achievement.
While only about 54 percent of MPS students graduated in four years, about 30 percent continued towards earning a diploma. The graduation rate in the seven comprehensive high schools is 68 percent, while the dropout rate is less than 4 percent. The graduation rate in the school district’s alternative high schools is 15 percent.
“MPS serves some of the most challenged students in the metro area through alternative high school programs,” Goar said. “While many districts aren’t able to serve students who have not been successful in a traditional setting, MPS is determined to support these students, especially those with critical academic, social and emotional needs.”
About 20 percent of students attending alternative high schools in Minneapolis have open enrolled from neighboring cities, and about half of these students come to MPS as seniors with few credits.
Goar said Johnson has directed her leadership team to review how contract alternative high schools are operated in the school district and to explore opportunities for MPS to offer its own alternative learning program, which would ensure academic coherence with the school district’s traditional high schools.
MPS continues to focus on increasing rigor and access to advanced courses to accelerate growth for all students. Proven programs like Check and Connect and AVID give targeted, individual support to students who need it the most. The school district plans to expand both of these programs for the 2014-15 school year.
“For all students, we must continue to support the mindset and pathway to graduation throughout elementary and middle school, and also have a strong process in place at our high schools to proactively help students catch up,” Goar said. “We have a strong vision for our high schools that we will continue to realize.”