Keep second language requirement

Cutting a requirement because students are falling behind is the wrong way to address it.

by Connor Nikolic

The Minneapolis public school district is struggling to keep up with many higher-performing districts around Minnesota. Its high schools currently have a graduation rate of about 54 percent, more than 25 percent below the state average. They are below the district’s MCA proficiency goals by about 30 percent across the board.

In an effort to help the struggling students, the school district and superintendent Bernadeia Johnson have agreed to drop second language requirements as a graduation standard for students. The newly elected school board will vote on this recommendation in January, in addition to several other graduation requirements they may lift. Decreasing the number of semesters required in physical education, health and social sciences classes will also be considered.

Studies have found that learning a second language strengthens students’ reading abilities, memory and problem solving ability, which is correlated with higher academic achievement on standardized testing. While the requirement may be one reason many students struggle to make it past high school, second language skills can help them succeed — if they work at it.

I don’t think that second language requirements should be cut. Instead, I hope that the schools offer increased support to those who are struggling.

However, the district should realize that cutting programs to meet requirements will not solve the underlying problem, which is that Minneapolis schools are not receiving the funding or support they need.

It’s time for the district to admit its shortcomings and stop looking for easy ways out.