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Educational equity is Minnesota’s most important challenge

Educational equity is the most important challenge Minnesota faces today. 

Glimpses of Soul Photography
Michael Rodriguez

The work of eliminating demographically predictable outcomes in educational access and achievement from cradle to career requires broad collaboration. We must work together across business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, in a collective effort.

Across the state, employers are beginning to see escalating retirements of the “baby boomer” generation. If we fail to graduate substantial proportions of an increasingly diverse student body to replace an aging workforce, the state economic forecast is grim.

Maintaining attention on the educational equity gap is also important. Minnesota Public Radio’s excellent series on persistent disparities in high school graduation rates across the state is the latest contribution to the public discussion. We applaud this type of reporting.

Glimpses of Soul Photography
Julie Sweitzer

At the University of Minnesota, we take this challenge very seriously, with many of our faculty exploring different facets of these challenges daily in search of research-based solutions. One needed effort is more active partnerships with and among educational institutions, from early childhood to K-12 schools to higher education. One example is the College of Education and Human Development’s new residency program to prepare a racially diverse cohort of current Minneapolis Public Schools’ staff to become teachers. Teachers must reflect the demographic diversity of our students as well.

We know no one silver bullet or magic answer exists. Something that works for students in one school or community may not in another. We need to focus on what works for whom, in what context and conditions, and develop a culture of continuous improvement that adjusts and tailors effective practices to each setting.

To that end, the University of Minnesota is hosting the first Educational Equity in Action, convening on June 20 and 21. Participants from across the state and various sectors of our communities are invited to attend. This will provide an important opportunity to contribute to a wide range of actions addressing educational equity from early childhood to higher education and across sectors including families, schools, and communities to social organizations and the public-policy arena.

Michael Rodriguez and Julie Sweitzer are co-directors of the University of Minnesota Educational Equity Resource Center.

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