The percentage of all Minneapolis Public Schools’ middle- and high-school students taking Advanced Placement courses in 2009-2010, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights data collection. That is a slight increase over the 12.6 percent that took these important college-preparatory courses in 2006-2007.


The percentage of Latino students enrolled in AP courses. Although it is more than double the 5.2 percent of Latino students taking AP courses three years ago, it is still the lowest rate among all students. Eleven-point-eight percent of black students, 19 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students, 19 percent of Asian students, and 44 percent of white students took AP courses in 2009-2010.


The percentage of Native students taking AP Math, a key college preparatory course. That is the lowest percentage among all students. Just six percent of Latino students taking AP, nine percent of black students in AP, 15 percent of Asian students studying AP courses, and 21 percent of white students taking AP are studying this important course.


The percentage of black students taking all tests for all the AP courses they participated in, the lowest rate of test participation among all Twin Cities students. Forty-four percent of Latino students, 45 percent of Native students, 58 percent of Asian students, and 69 percent of white students took tests for the AP courses they enrolled in.


The percentage of Native American seventh- and eighth-graders who took Algebra 1, an important course for preparing for more-complex math subjects such as calculus and trigonometry, in 2009-2010. That is the lowest level among all middle-school students in Minneapolis. Twelve percent of black middle-school students, 16 percent of  their Latino counterparts, 27 percent of white students, and 30 percent of Asian students took Algebra 1 that year; only 15 percent of students overall took Algebra 1 before entering high school.


The percentage of all high school- and middle-school students who took geometry. This includes a mere five percent of Native students, 7.3 percent of Latino students, 8.2 percent of black students, 9 percent of white students, and 11 percent of Asian students. Geometry, by the way, is an important building block in understanding trigonometry, which welders and other high-skilled blue-collar workers earning middle-class incomes of $60,000 or more use in their work.


The percentage of all Minneapolis high school students who took International Baccalaureate courses, another key college preparatory curricula, in 2009-2010. White students make up 58 percent of all students taking IB courses, even though they make up 29 percent of high school enrollment that year, while minority students made up the remainder. Even with that, a mere 13 percent of white students and 14 percent of their Asian peers — and an even more abysmal 2 percent of black and Latino students (and 1 percent of Native kids) — were enrolled in IB courses that year.


The ratio of young high school women to young male counterparts taking IB courses in 2009-2010. Just four percent of all young men took IB courses that year, versus eight percent of their young women peers.


From rock star Prince to retail giant Target, the best-known of the Twin Cities has contributed plenty to the nation’s culture and economy. Yet its traditional school district offers little to the very children and families dependent on the teaching and curricula it provides so that they can succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. With few students of any race other than white taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, few middle-schoolers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds taking the important building block that is Algebra 1, and only a smattering of kids taking the kind of geometry courses needed for success in the kind of blue- and white-collar jobs the district’s diverse population of students will need for economic success in adulthood.

But Minneapolis isn’t alone. As Dropout Nation has noted in its profiles of districts such as Philadelphia and Fairfax County, Va., a century of practices such as ability-tracking, gifted and talent courses, and the comprehensive high school  model — all based on the racialist belief that black, Latino, and immigrant students were incapable of mastering college-preparatory learning — have led to an education crisis that comes just as the need for comprehensive knowledge is critical to economic success. As a result of these and other practices (as well as the dysfunctional cultures fostered by these policies), traditional districts have helped condemn far too many kids to despair. Transforming education, from improving how we recruit and train teachers to providing all kids will college-preparatory curricula, to ending the gatekeeping of comprehensive learning (and thus allowing families to choose those courses for their kids), would help our kids get the knowledge they need for lifelong success. And it is as important to do so in the Twin Cities as it is throughout the rest of the nation.