Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Cities and Schools

Dateline: 9:39 pm February 21, 2007 Filed under:

I am a product of inner city schools. Frankly, I have mostly fond memories of the Minneapolis Public Schools, particularly South High. Since I again live in Minneapolis and now have an 8-month old, I am concerned about today’s choices in schools. Minneapolis, like many cities, is a pretty cool place to be, but the public school system, although still very good in many ways, is suffering from declining enrollment and bad publicity.

I have written about schools in the past, and I will again. I will give one quick story from a recent visit I made to New York City. I was there to tour and write about Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park. The Prospect Park Alliance was formed two decades ago to restore the park to its original glory, and a mighty fine job they are doing! Part of their community outreach in the past couple years has been to partner with the Gates Foundation and create four smaller high schools out of one larger school.

The original high school had a 30% to 40% graduation rate, but the partnership created specialized schools with smaller class sizes. The Prospect Park Alliance is part of a science and environmental school, and Prospect Park itself is used as a laboratory for students. Well, the first class is due to graduate this spring, and they expect 80% of the students to do so.

I find stories such as this heartening. They provide hope for gentrifiying cities that seem to have everything but their school district going for them. I hope with more efforts like this, young people who believe in the city will actually stay there.

Look for more about schools soon.

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