Minneapolis Public Schools Lose Students to Charter Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Students are Fleeing Minneapolis Schools
Minneapolis schools are being faced with the prospect of empty school buildings as more and more students flee the system to charter schools in the district.  Minneapolis schools’ enrollment figures have plummeted to just 36,000 this year - that’s almost half its capacity of 50,000 students. Schools in the north side have felt the pinch the hardest with a 44 percent drop in enrollment over the past five years.  All indications are that there is no stemming this tide and Minneapolis schools have already announced plans to close 5 schools leaving more than 2000 students in the lurch, desperately scrambling to find new schools. 
The Exodus of Blacks and Minorities from Minneapolis Schools
A bulk of the students that chose to leave Minneapolis public schools belongs to high poverty black neighborhoods and other minority communities.  The statistics reveal a strong yet disturbing trend.  In the ’99-’00 academic year, more than 48,000 black students sought admission in Minneapolis schools.  Compare this to the bleak picture painted for 2008 when enrollment from black students is expected to touch barely 33,500. 
Most black students prefer to enroll at charter schools in the district which have perceived higher standards than public Minneapolis schools.  This problem of “black flight” is, authorities agree, a serious problem for Minneapolis schools.  Surveys in the African American community show that black parents in general tend to be dissatisfied with the quality of education in Minneapolis public schools.  Not that they have any reason to feel differently. In 2005, barely 29 % of black students in the eighth grades in Minneapolis schools managed to pass basic math tests and just 47% could manage to scrape through the reading tests.  Graduation rates for black students at Minneapolis schools were some of the lowest at fifty percent.  Besides blacks, Asian students are joining the growing movement out of Minneapolis schools.
Moves to Stem the Tide at Minneapolis Schools
The success of charter schools can be traced to a number of factors.  School sizes are smaller, and it is generally believed that teaching staff are more in tune with students’ requirements and are better able to meet these needs.  Minneapolis schools have begun to realize that immediate steps have to be taken to avoid the current migration of students.  School authorities have proposed initiatives that require schools in the district to offer additional emphasis on music, arts, and language besides improving their core academic curricula.   It’s hoped that raising the bar on academic learning will stem the growing tide.  Even if the schools do not succeed in attracting students back to their fold, one hopes that at the very least they will be able to stop students leaving in masses.