Dear MPS partners and friends:
January 20 was an exciting day in Minneapolis, as national leaders visited to focus on the work that we do every day to prepare students for college and career. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited South High School to talk with the senior class and their parents about college affordability and the new simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Al Franken and Mayor R.T. Rybak, who have consistently demonstrated their support for Minneapolis schools, also addressed students. Visit the MPS website (www.mpls.k12.mn.us/video_archive.html) to view our video of the event.
What impressed me the most during the visit was the leadership of our students, who raised intelligent, thoughtful and authentic questions during their conversation with Secretary Duncan. Hats off to these seniors — they showed that they were sharp, mature and prepared. They showed that they had successfully completed 13 years of experience as skilled students. They showed that they were ready for college and the workforce.
Successfully completing high school must be at the forefront of students’ minds from the moment they enter school until the day that they toss their caps in the air. Graduating all students is a challenge that teachers and leaders work to achieve each day in urban school districts. In Minneapolis, we still have work to do. Last school year, 78 percent (1,466) of our students graduated and 85 percent of them reported going on to a two- or four-year college.
Our academic strategic plan is organized around nine research-based goals, referred to as Steps to Student Success. One of these goals is that students will demonstrate college and career readiness by grade 12.
Among other key strategies is that we will improve support for students and families to complete applications for college admission and financial aid. We know that when college is affordable, the chances of completion increase. However, only half of our graduates (just over 700) completed the FAFSA last year. Our goal is to have 68 percent of students completing the FAFSA over the next four years.
MPS is starting an exciting new pilot this school year to help meet this goal. The program will let us connect directly with students and their families who have told us they want to go to college, but do not have a financial plan to do it. The federal government’s work to simplify the FAFSA process will help us in this journey as well.
MPS will hold a special event called FAFSA February, at which families can file their taxes and complete the FAFSA. The event will happen Sunday, February 12, 2-5 pm, at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, 1501 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Additional help and information sessions will be held at each of our comprehensive high schools throughout the month.
We have partners across the metro that support our work, and I would like to recognize one in particular, AchieveMpls. Our partners at AchieveMpls have invested in countless ways to support our school district’s mission to make every child college and career ready. Each of our seven comprehensive high schools and one of our alternative schools has an AchieveMpls College and Career Center that ensures that all students have a plan to move from high school to higher education and work.
MPS counselors work each day to support students in their life ambitions, providing encouragement and guidance to students. Each of our employees has this same duty to influence and inspire our young people to be successful in their futures. We can’t do it alone and we need you on board as well. Thank you for your continued support of our students and our schools.
Bernadeia Johnson, Ed.D., is superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.