Minneapolis Roosevelt High parent advocates greater academic challenge, more parent involvement


When Minneapolis parent Rachel Skildum-LeGarde is asked about what she is looking for in a school for her children, her answer comes quickly: she wants challenging and rigorous academics, strong art, theater, and music offerings, and a solid athletics program.

Her three oldest children are currently enrolled at Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis, and so far, Skildum-LeGarde is cautiously optimistic about the education they are receiving there. In her view, Roosevelt is making “a lot of strides” in its music and art departments, and Skildum-LeGarde also feels that Roosevelt has offered her children a “fairly good” sports program.

When it comes to academics at Roosevelt, however, Skildum-LeGarde is not quite convinced that her children are getting a solid, comprehensive education. While Roosevelt is an IB (International Baccalaureate) school, Skildum-LeGarde notes that that program, with its emphasis on critical thinking and deeper student engagement, does not start until the 11th and 12th grades.

Skildum-LeGarde said there is not a program in place, such as the “Middle Years” program for grades 6-10 that some IB schools have, to ensure 9th and 10th graders are being academically challenged. In fact, Skildum-LeGarde feels her son is getting an “easy” A in English class this year as a 10th grader, and wonders whether or not he’ll be adequately prepared to start the rigorous IB program next year, as a junior.

For her, this is important. She said that, while she does “try to supplement” her children’s education at home, they are at school for up to ten hours a day, with classes and after-school activities, and she’d like to feel as though they are getting the “best start possible” on a path to college.

Skildum-LeGarde serves on both the DPAC (the district’s citywide parent group) and the Title 7 Parent Committee, which is for Native American parents, and she thinks finding more and better ways for parents to get involved in their children’s education is important. Particularly, Skildum-LeGarde said many parents “rarely hear” from teachers unless there is a problem, and that updating how parents and teachers communicate, perhaps through an enhanced, easy-to-access website, would be beneficial.

Skildum-LeGarde said that some parents may need coaching in how to actively participate in their children’s education, or at least may need to be personally invited to school events and information sessions. Overall, she sees a need for innovative, culturally responsive approaches to parent involvement at a diverse and growing school like Roosevelt.

Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.