Minneapolis students' struggles start early, report says

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2011 - 8:15 PM

Poverty, disparities in minority groups can leave a lasting mark.

More than half of Minneapolis' black, Asian and American Indian children live in poverty, a circumstance that can affect their opportunities from kindergarten to college and beyond, a new study from the Minneapolis Foundation indicates.

The OneMinneapolis report on the city's racial and ethnic disparities, released Wednesday, also found that only 36 percent of Latino students in Minneapolis are prepared for kindergarten, considerably less than figures for children who come from homes where Hmong or Somali are the primary languages.

Fewer than half of the district's American Indian and Latino high school graduates and slightly over half of black graduates enroll in college, the report found.

The lack of school preparedness and higher education spill over into adulthood, limiting job opportunities and laying the foundation for employment gaps that are among the nation's largest.

The report documents the recession's toll in Minneapolis, where an increasing number of residents live in poverty and fewer adults are finding employment.

Jobs in Minneapolis are more likely to pay family-supporting wages than in years past, but many are filled by people who live outside the city, the report found.

"This is a very stark report on where gaps exist," said Sandra Vargas, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation. "Our community vitality depends on our ability to solve these problems. It's up to us to decide where we're going."

The foundation commissioned research from the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation to look at trends in education, housing, poverty, employment, crime and representation of women and non-whites in elected office.

Some findings were encouraging:

• Among 41 key public positions serving Minneapolis, nearly half are held by women and 63 percent are held by women and non-whites.

• Among non-white students, Asians in the Minneapolis schools are most likely to meet third-grade reading standards, graduate from high school in four years and enroll in college immediately after graduation.

• Students whose families speak Somali at home are almost as likely to meet kindergarten reading standards as students who speak English.

• 79 percent of Minneapolis public schools parents surveyed were satisfied with their child's school.

• The likelihood of feeling unaccepted because of one's race, ethnicity or culture has been cut in half since 2002.

Other findings were grim:

• Black students are much likelier than their peers to be suspended, with one in four being kicked out of school each year.

• Fewer than half of the potential voters in Minneapolis voted in the 2010 general election, the lowest percentage in a decade.

• The achievement gap in third-grade reading between white and non-white students was 50 percentage points in 2010. Nearly 90 percent of white students were proficient, but they represent only a third of the students in third grade.

• Fewer than 10 percent of city students who enroll at their most common higher education destination, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, graduate within three years. Another 25 percent transfer out.

To reveal how the city is changing, the report will be updated each year, allowing the Minneapolis Foundation to better leverage its resources.

"We need to look hard at the statistics and see if this is the Minneapolis we love," Vargas wrote in a statement. "A great divide is not good for any of us."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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