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Urban Schools: Unequal by Design
Every public school student is entitled to and can benefit from an education that prepares them for college. That's what most parents and students want.
However, we have a school system that was remodeled about 100 years ago in order to exclude most students in the urban centers from college preparatory curriculum programs. Public schools in the urban centers have created a large pool of workers whose employment options consist of low-wage jobs and/or prison. The schools also help students adjust to the social status for which their formal education prepares them.
Until the mid-1950s students were generally sorted and tracked according to judgments about their academic abilities in middle school / junior high. Students from the most affluent neighborhoods attended the best elementary schools and were almost invariably put on a college preparatory curriculum track in junior high / middle school.
Now ability-grouping / tracking begins in kindergarten or grade 1. In the Minneapolis Public Schools, about 40% of the white kids (mostly from wealthy neighborhoods) and about 10% of the black kids are assigned to "gifted and talented" programs by grade 2.
For most black students in the Minneapolis Public Schools (about 45% of the students are of African descent) the quality of education is abysmal. According to MPS data, over 50% of black students in the elementary grades have scores below the 25th percentile on a nationally-normed achievement test, and 26% of all black students are enrolled in special education classes. About 90% of these special education students are diagnosed with Emotional-Behavorial Disorders. Most Black students are pushed out of school before they would otherwise complete high school.
For all Minneapolis Public School students, the On time graduation rate is about 40%, the dropout/push out rate is about 50%, according to the Minnesota Department of Families, Children and Learning.
During the past two years, enrollment in the Minneapolis Public Schools has dropped from about 50,000 to less than 46,000 K-12 students. District officials have noted that there has not been a decline in the number of school age kids. The Minneapolis district is "losing its market share" to private schools and public schools in the suburbs. Many parents support voucher programs and tax credits to help them pay for private school tuition.