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VERIFY: Are Minnesota schools worst in nation for students of color?

You may have seen them on the roads, billboards claiming Minnesota schools are worst in the nation for students of color, but is it true?

You may have seen them on the roads, billboards claiming Minnesota schools are the worst in the nation for students of color.


THE QUESTION

Are Minnesota schools the worst in the nation for students of color?

THE ANSWER

Yes, but the question needs more context.

It depends on how you define “the worst in the nation.”

Are you basing that on test scores? Grades? Attendance? Etc.

The billboards simply read, “Minnesota Schools Are Worst in the Nation for our Children of Color.”

But after a closer at these billboards, the fine print in the bottom left corner states this claim is based on “high school graduation rates.”

When you look at the question from that angle, yes, Minnesota has the lowest graduation rates in the nation when it comes to students of color.

But if you’re looking at test scores and grades, then, no, Minnesota is not the worst in the nation for students of color.

WHAT WE FOUND

The billboards were put up by the Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children.

The nonprofit group is based in Minnesota and its mission is to give all students an equal opportunity to do well in school.

The group purchased the billboards to make a point that Minnesota schools, and society in general, can and should do better when it comes to educating students of color.

In the fine print, the billboards quote 2017 statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The center tracks high school graduation rates in all 50 states.

In Minnesota the graduation rate for black students is 65%.

That number puts Minnesota in dead last among all 50 states. 

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Minnesota’s black student graduation rate is a full 2-percentage points lower than the next lowest state, Wisconsin.

And for Hispanic students, the graduation rate in Minnesota is 66%, which is also the lowest in the nation. 

Louisiana is the next lowest with 67%, but after that, no other state falls below 71%.

For context, the graduation rate for white students in Minnesota is 88%, which puts the state at 27th in the nation. 

And these aren't just one-off numbers.

Minnesota ranked in the bottom five for black and Hispanic students the two previous years as well. 

So, we can Verify, Minnesota is the worst in the nation when it comes to minority students dropping out of school, which the billboard claims in the fine print.

But it’s important to consider that most people who see these billboards can’t read the fine print, because it’s just too small. 

Therefore, some drivers will simply read the main statement, "Minnesota Schools are Worst in the Nation for Children of Color” without the necessary context.

Without that context the statement isn’t accurate.

According to the Education Opportunity Monitoring Project, organized by a team of researchers at Stanford University, Minnesota does pretty well when it comes to test scores.

Researchers used nationwide test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and broke them down by state, race and ethnicity. 

The research team found that Black 4th graders in Minnesota ranked 3rd in the nation for math and 16th for reading.

Black 8th graders ranked 30th for math and 24th for reading. 

So, among younger students, Black students in Minnesota are nowhere near the bottom when it comes to test scores.

This research project only focuses on younger students. 

To find out where Black high school students in Minnesota rank among other states we looked at SAT and ACT scores.

In 2018, Black students in Minnesota scored an average of 200 points higher on the SAT’s than black students nationwide. 

And with the ACT, Black students in Minnesota typically score around 17, based on scores from the last five years, and that average is on par with Black students nationwide.

 So, summing everything up, we can Verify its true, Minnesota schools are the worst in the nation when it comes to graduation rates for students of color.