North High in 1915, source MN Historical Society
The potential closing of North High School in Minneapolis has incited its surrounding neighborhood and some of the city’s education advocates into action. The proposed closure is due to a steep decline in enrollment over the last 6 years – so where are North Minneapolis students going?
Several months before the school district announced this potential closure, MinnPost ran a story on two reports from The Civil Rights Project and The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. These reports indicated that half of the students in north Minneapolis have deserted the district’s traditional public schools for charter, magnet or parochial schools, leaving places like North High grasping at straws and community members without many options.
Enter the Northside Achievement Zone; a project partnered with the PEACE Foundation, along with 17 additional faith-based, foundation, and corporate partners. NAZ is located within the Minneapolis North neighborhood, encompassing a 13-by-18 block region. The project has been in development since 2007. Its goal is to see that every student graduates from high school and is college ready through use of a holistic resource base connecting parents to services helping their families and children beginning in the womb.
This resource base is made possible by the Zone’s partnership with over 60 community organizations specializing in everything from housing to financial management, mental health and early childhood education.
This is an exciting and progressive project with a plan for the Northside community that focuses on long-term results and sustainability through generations if it sees success. So where does North High fit in? Well so far, it doesn’t.
North High School lies nearly 10 blocks outside the Northside Achievement Zone. It is currently not a Zone pilot school participant. In fact, of the 11 pilot schools NAZ has signed on, a large majority are charter, magnet or specialized schools, with four residing outside of the Zone boundaries.
Why is this the case? Perhaps these schools are more equipped to handle the project or maybe NAZ has a specific vision in mind for learning. In any case, MinnPost’s report also indicated that charter and magnet schools often have mixed achievement outcomes and are frequently highly segregated, particularly in Minneapolis charters.
Suddenly it feels like this ambitious and important project has isolated itself, leaving inner-city district schools like North High behind. There is no doubt that holistic community approaches to public education are extremely important, but the difficulty lies in extending the community boundaries far enough. Perhaps NAZ can take a step 10 blocks southwest and see how far it can go in rejuvenating the community by acknowledging the struggling school that’s anchored it for the last 122 years.