By Mike Ciresi, March guest blogger
The achievement gap that exists between our K-12 students of color and white students will have profound effects on higher education in the state in the coming years and, therefore, on our economy unless we work diligently to close the gap. If we do that, we will help ensure that our students are ready for college and the workforce of the 21st century.
In a state that boasts the highest ACT scores in the nation, 40 percent of our high school graduates entering public colleges and universities require some type of developmental course in math or English or science. Many are students of color. The achievement gap in K-12 has led to what many experts call a college-readiness gap.
Our colleges and universities have to spend millions of dollars on these courses.
Now consider that by 2018, 70% of the jobs in Minnesota will require some post-secondary education. There will be fewer jobs for people without a high school diploma and those jobs won’t pay enough to support a family. Our businesses will need highly trained and highly skilled workers to compete nationally and globally.
On an individual level, a college graduate earns $650,000 more over a 40-year career than a high school grad, according to the Pew Research Center.
Add to that the changing demographics of the state. For example, Minneapolis is now 40% people of color. In a few decades, the state’s largest city will be majority people of color. If the achievement gap persists, we will as a community leave behind a generation of young people and we will shortchange what our businesses need to grow and prosper in a highly competitive world.
But if we begin to close the achievement gap and graduate students of color at the same rate as white students (in Minneapolis, for example, fewer than half the students of color graduate on time), we can add $1.3 billion annually to our state’s economy by 2020. And better educated residents will mean less reliance on social programs, lower crime rates, higher rates of voting and volunteering, and more students prepared for college and high-skilled jobs.
We should applaud efforts such as the recently announced GradMinnesota initiative, co-chaired by Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. The initiative seeks to increase the current high school graduation rate in Minnesota from 77 to 90% by 2020.
As I mentioned in my post earlier this month, the Minneapolis Foundation, with a host of community partners, has launched “RESET Education,” a public awareness campaign aimed at closing the achievement gap. It emphasizes five successful strategies that are working effectively in some Minneapolis district and public charter schools and in schools around the country. RESET stands for: Real-time use of data; Expectation not Excuses; Strong Leadership; and Effective Teaching and Time on Task. Business leaders, educators and parents can get involved and help make a difference. Many colleges are already working closely with local high schools and middle schools and their students.
The achievement gap is not someone else’s problem. It is our problem. And we must solve it sooner, not later, for the sake of our K-12 students, who are our future college students and high-skilled workers. Find out more about RESET Education and what you can do to make a difference.