Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) announced a three percent gain in graduation rates this year, resulting in a 77 percent graduation rate overall for the district in 2022. St. Paul Public Schools’ (SPPS) graduation rates stayed relatively stable, dropping .6 percent to 75.4 percent overall. (Graduation rates for the 2022-23 school year are not yet available.)
The majority of the gains in MPS’s graduation rates over the past four years came from students of color, particularly Native American and biracial students. MPS Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox celebrated the increase in graduation rates.
“Our students continue to show their resilience in the wake of everything they’ve been through,” Cox said in a press release. “The Class of 2022 only spent one year of their high school experience in a typical learning environment before the pandemic changed everything.
“In spite of this, students stayed committed to their academics and went on to graduate. I am so proud of our students and staff for all their hard work over the past several years.”
Josh Crosson, executive director of local education firm EdAllies, did not think a three percent gain in graduation rates was a reason to celebrate, saying that this year’s fluctuation in graduation rates at both MPS and SPPS were “within the margin of error.” Crosson said that graduation rates did not significantly change from before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“How long will it take for every student to graduate high school if we’re increasing by three percent?” Crosson said. “And we’re celebrating that as an unusual outcome for the year.
“We also ignore the fact that graduations decreased in other years. So how long will it take for us to actually graduate all our Black and Brown kids if we only go up three percent a year?,” he said. “The first year of the pandemic, we saw all student groups actually increase in graduation rates from the year before with the exception of Black students.”
Crosson says that he has no hard data on why only Black graduation rates decreased since 2020. But he has heard from Black students and parents that they were not given “the same grace” as students of other races, being punished more than their peers for absences or missed assignments due to the pandemic.
Crosson noted that even with the increase in graduation rates this year, Minnesota still ranks the lowest of any state in graduation rates for Latino students, and second worst for Asian and Black students. While graduation rates increased in several metro area school districts, Crosson said math and reading proficiency in Minnesota is decreasing faster than anywhere else in the nation. “The gap between who can read a diploma and who is getting a diploma is growing.”
Crosson pointed out that the Robbinsdale area schools saw significant increases in graduation rates for Black students this year, but Black students in the district had a lower reading proficiency rate and half the math proficiency of Black students statewide. Crosson referred to how graduation rates can be rising while academic proficiency rates are plummeting as ‘the million-dollar question.’
“We’re still failing students at an abysmal rate in this state,” Crosson said “and the students that we’re failing have been historically underserved and under-resourced.”