A tale of two students

Fewer than half of Minnesota’s black high school students graduate.

Education Week, a respected statistics and education news source, recently released a report that detailed disturbing inequity between Minnesota’s white and black students. The state must do more to eliminate the educational disparity between white students and black students.

The report told of two dramatically different realities for Minnesota high school students. While Minnesota retains one of the highest graduation rates for white students at 83 percent, it has one of the lowest for black students at 44 percent. The national average for black students is 52 percent. It is simply unacceptable that this trend continues in this day and age.

Education officials throughout the state said they were not surprised by the results of the Education Week study but the question remains: Why is Minnesota so far below the national average when it comes to graduation rates for black students?

One reason offered is that in a state that is predominately white, black students are not effectively communicated with or taught. This problem is further compounded by graduation-required “exit exams,” which are controversial themselves and might test material that was not taught properly in the first place.

So what must be done? Of course the answer is not to shuffle black students through the graduation door, but rather provide real solutions and new, innovative approaches. In St. Paul, under a grant provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, some schools were able to break up their student populations into smaller communities and invest in staff training and student learning opportunities. It is no secret that all students learn more when they feel they belong and when their needs are being considered.

In the schools where this method was implemented, the achievement gap between black and white students narrowed.

Make no mistake, the educational inequity and graduation rates in Minnesota speak to larger problems, but Minnesota must stop turning a blind eye to the children of the state.