I don't necessarily want to focus on Latinos today because the problem cannot be solved if we just consider one ethnic group. I really think schools should look over this data during the summer and make some changes: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/state-2010-11-graduation-rate-data.pdf
Minnesota has the largest achievement gap when it comes to Latinos graduating from high school. I would think that many would find this surprising news when we consider that Minnesota is a liberal state in general, and many consider it one of the best states for public education. The article that exposes Minnesota is here: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/minnesota-massachusetts-largest-latino-achievement-gaps/story?id=17870011#.UWpFIoJozgg
Why is this happening? It's not that the white graduation rate is sky high. It is only 84%. About 28 states beat Minnesota in this category. Everyone beats Minnesota in the Latino category. Everyone beats Minnesota in the Native American category as well. It doesn't get much better with African-Americans in Minnesota. Only Nevada has worse numbers than Minnesota.
I have a couple theories:
1. We talk a lot about how the system is set up so that white, middle to upper class, English-speaking families have the best chance to succeed in United States schools. Maybe this is more true in Minnesota than anywhere else. Maybe progressive Minnesota hasn't caught up with the other states yet. Minnesota really needs to work on integrating and educating families that are not white, middle to upper class, and/or English-speaking.
2. Minnesota has a metro area with poor inner-city neighborhoods and white, upper-class suburbs. Most cities have this, but it seems like there really are "Two Minnesotas" when one travels between the two. Minnesota also has rural areas that have had a hard time adjusting to the new cultures that have arrived in them. I think we don't want to believe that Minnesota is a closed-minded, racist, or classist state because of the "Minnesota Nice" thing, but maybe Minnesotans need to look at themselves and say, "Hey, we think we are awesome, but we are the worst in the country. Numbers don't lie." Every state in the South beats Minnesota in graduation rates for African-Americans. It's time to look in the mirror.
3. There aren't enough role models of color in the schools in Minnesota. This can be very powerful, but it doesn't seem like Minnesota is going out of its way to make this happen. I could be wrong. No, you can't blame it on college students not choosing the right fields.
One of the things schools can do while they wait for policy changes is get parents involved in their children's education. It has been proven that parent involvement leads to better graduation rates: http://www.nea.org/tools/17360.htm
Getting parents involved can start today. Most of them want to know that someone cares about them and their children. They want to know they have someone who will listen to their concerns. It happens one parent, one interaction at a time. There is no easy answer or quick solution, but an effort has to be made, especially in states like Minnesota.
Go to http://www.advocatelatino.com to start a free trial this spring. We've waited long enough.