Mayor Rybak gave his State of The City Speech this week. Check out an excerpt on education and his thoughts on the achievement gap. To view entire speech, click here.
The year 2025 is 12 years away. Most kids born this year will be in 6th grade. Today’s first graders will be graduating from high school. The 9th graders I talk to this fall about their careers will have been out of high school for nine years. Those who go on to higher education will have graduated five years earlier. Young people who graduate this year will well into of their careers.
By 2025, we will know whether Minneapolis’ next generation will be successful, or we will know whether another generation of Minneapolis will accept a shocking achievement gap that should never have been seen as acceptable.
Of the top 20 metropolitan areas in the country, Minneapolis–Saint Paul has the largest academic achievement gap. We are: DEAD. LAST. Our achievement gap means children of different races in our city have different futures. We would be outraged if we heard about this in another place and we should be even more outraged that it happens in our hometown. It is a social-justice issue. It is a civil-rights issue. It is an issue that is central to our economic future. And it may get worse.
Consider this: Our planners tell us that if we get the growth we want — if our population grows by 65,000 people between now and 2025, that growth will be almost exclusively among people of color. That is also the part of the population — African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos — that is suffering from the greatest disparities in academic achievement. So if we don’t take dramatic action, the achievement gap we should find totally unacceptable today will be dramatically bigger in 2025.
This is a crisis and we have to act like it. When the 35W bridge collapsed, we didn’t spend a few decades admiring the problem and another few decades having polite conversations about a few things we might want to do. But that’s what we have been doing for far too long with the collapse of the future of some of our kids.
There is absolutely nothing in the City Charter that gives the Mayor or this Council responsibility for the children of Minneapolis — but I’m proud that none of us acted that way. We have made major investments of our time and money in helping our kids. As a city and a community, we have:
• Brought down teenage pregnancy rates by 47 percent.
• Brought down the number of youth involved in violent crime by 59 percent.
• Brought down the number of children with elevated lead levels by 73 percent.
We helped lobby successfully for a $28-million Promise Neighborhoods grant from the Obama Administration for the Northside Achievement Zone. Our budgets have also funded the Youth Coordinating Board’s work coordinating out-of-school time.
It is very clear to me that the most significant factors that contribute to the achievement gap happen outside of school — poverty, public and mental health, family success, segregation, discrimination. But it is also an inescapable fact that our schools are not as successful as they must be in closing these gaps. Every elected official, every community leader, everyone in this room and everyone who cares about the future of Minneapolis must be willing to plunge into the challenging issues and politics of making our schools better.
I will continue to support Superintendent Johnson’s goals:
• High-quality teachers and principals in every school building. The single most important school-related factor in student success is the quality of the classroom teacher. We have to do more to place the very best teachers in schools with the most academically challenged students, do more to reward teachers and principals who are effective, and do more to remove those who aren’t.
• More high-quality instructional time, and more high-quality out-of-school time. Minneapolis has historically had one of the shortest school days and school years in the state and nation. This past school year we added four additional days to the school year. This is a start, but we need more.
Improving academic performance for every child in every school presents a significant challenge, but let’s remember that our community has tackled tough issues involving kids before, and succeeded. That has been the case with our work preventing youth violence. And no city in America is doing a better job creating summer jobs and career paths than we are with STEP-UP. Since 2004, we have placed 16,000 youth in high-quality summer jobs, and we are on track to place another 1,900 this summer.
And talk about closing gaps: our STEP-UP youth are 86 percent people of color, 50 percent from immigrant families and 93 percent from households living in poverty. Simply put, STEP-UP is a key strategy for closing both our racial economic gaps and our racial achievement gaps.