MN Comeback releases Minneapolis schools guidebook

Minnesota Comeback staff Kristen McKittrick, Nicholas Banovetz, Al Fan, Rashad Turner, Sagirah Shahid, Cay Kimbrell and David Whitney hold the organization's latest project, the "Minnesota Schools Finder." Photo by Nate Gotlieb
Minnesota Comeback staff Kristen McKittrick, Nicholas Banovetz, Al Fan, Rashad Turner, Sagirah Shahid, Cay Kimbrell and David Whitney hold the organization's latest project, the "Minnesota Schools Finder." Photo by Nate Gotlieb

The nonprofit Minnesota Comeback has released a guidebook to help parents select a Minneapolis K-12 school for their kids.

The Minneapolis-based organization’s 2017–2018 “Minneapolis School Finder” contains profiles on 139 schools in Minneapolis and includes details such as hours, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment proficiency rates and racial demographics.

Minnesota Comeback will distribute 4,000 paper copies of the guidebook at Northside Achievement Zone, Pillsbury United Communities, the Banyan Community Center and other sites at no cost to parents. It’s also available for free online.

“When parents have the information, they can make better decisions,” said Rashad Turner, Minnesota Comeback’s director of community engagement.

Minnesota Comeback kept hearing there was an “information gap” when it came to schools, according to Nicholas Banovetz, the organization’s director of external relations. Banovetz said some parents find the Minnesota Department of Education website too technical.

The organization began working on the guide in part because Minneapolis Public Schools cancelled its school choice fair, Turner said. The district decided to replace the annual event this school year with “Visit Our Schools Month,” a program intended to get parents and families to visit the schools. Previously, the district held the annual fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The guide lists tips and factors parents may want to consider when choosing a school, such as school climate, hours and transportation. It also lists questions parents could ask during a school tour, such as “how can your school accommodate my child’s learning style and interests?”

“We’re helping address a void that a lot of parents in our community have experienced for too long,” Banovetz said.

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It lists schools that are “changing the odds,” which Minnesota Comeback defines as schools where more than 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and where students are doing better than average or demonstrating faster-than-expected growth on their MCA tests.

Minnesota Comeback created its own four-tiered academic rating for the guide, with schools ranging to “high performing” to “low performing.” The ratings system evaluates MCA and ACT scores from two of the past three years.

“High performing” schools have MCA proficiency rates above the state average or MCA growth in the top 25 percent of all schools in Minneapolis. “Low performing” schools are in the bottom 25 percent in both proficiency and growth.

Minnesota Comeback is planning “parent launch” events March 18 and 25 where parents can ask questions and learn about the school-selection process. Visit minneapolisschoolfinder.org to download the guide and learn more.

Minnesota Comeback describes itself as a coalition of schools, funders and education organizations developing a citywide plan for grants that improve K-12 education. The organization’s goal is to create 30,000 “rigorous and relevant” seats in Minneapolis district, charter and independent schools by 2025.

Minnesota Comeback is funded by 28 foundations, according to its website, including the Bush, Cargill, Carlson Family and Minneapolis foundations. The organization distributed more than $2.7 million in grants last year, including about $575,000 for MPS’ residency program. It also provided grants to several charter schools and nonprofits.

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