Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minnesota in Last Place

We’re a state proud of our rank among the states in the nation. In almost every category imaginable, Minnesota has been among the top three or four states in the nation. Now, however, comes word that we are dead last in a real and serious way in a couple of very important categories.
by Charlie Leck

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Minnesota placed last among all the states in the four-year graduation rate of Hispanic students. In addition, we were also last in the gaps in achievement between white students and both Hispanic and Native American students. We were second-worst in America in the gap between black and white students. Finally, we were ranked 29th in the nation in the overall quality of education.

My goodness! It was not long ago that our state ranked, year after year, among the top three in the quality of the education it provided. What has happened? For one thing, the percentage of our minority population has increased dramatically in the last decade. The poor job we are doing in the education of these minority populations has dramatically impacted our overall education rating.

It is, without question, time to deal with this problem and quickly correct what we’re doing wrong.

To get an idea of some of the things that have been tried and succeeded in correcting this problem, take a look at this opinion column in the Wednesday edition of the StarTribune. It is exciting to read about the TORCH program in Northfield. TORCH raised the high school graduation rate of Latino students to 100 percent. Yup, I said 100 percent! Another opinion column by Kathy Saltzman, A Wakeup Call forMinnesota’s Schools, also outlines ways to deal with this problem. Saltzman is the state director for Students First in Minnesota and also a former member of the Minnesota State Senate.

If you are a Minnesotan, these two columns are must reading. If you are from any state, and care about the education of students – especially minority students – this is also very worthwhile reading.

I’m a very proud citizen of this extraordinary state and I want us to turn this problem around. I think we can! Or as the Little Engine that Could said: I know we can!

“Minnesota’s education is highly competitive and market-based. Children of immigrants, who have grown up in poverty, with minimal education and no English, are placed in competition with the children of educators, doctors and engineers who have lived here for generations; so are the children of the multiplying Minnesota poor. [Hector Garcia]

You know, there are lots of ways one could get involved. A good friend of mine works with a minority student in a reading program. He’s developed a marvelous friendship with the kid and this youngster’s life is going to be altered in a positive way because of the relationship. More of us could do this – or try other approaches to get involved with struggling young students. I’m going to look today at agencies that are searching for volunteers. You give it some thought, too.

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