Image by St. Paul Public Schools
Minnesota's many public schools offer students an outstanding education
Twin Cities families have a vast number of public schools to choose from. Open enrollment, charter schools, immersion programs, alternative schools and other types span the Twin Cities, so understanding the options is key.
The majority of the public school system here uses an open enrollment policy, which makes it easier for families trying to find schools beyond their immediate neighborhoods. The program also encourages schools to maintain a competitive edge, attracting students from their home neighborhoods and beyond.
The Minneapolis School District educates more than 35,000 students across 75 schools, while the St. Paul School District is one of the state’s largest school districts with nearly 40,000 students at 58 schools. While these districts are two major pillars in the Twin Cities’ education system, they make up a small portion of the total number of schools and educational programs you’ll find throughout Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding metro.
In addition to outstanding education, many suburban public schools offer excellent athletics, keeping kids active and involved after school. Minnetonka received a No. 9 ranking on Niche’s 2017 list of Best High Schools for Athletes in America. And Eden Prairie took the coveted No. 1 spot the year prior. Edina High School has won more than 150 state championships, including boys’ hockey and girls’ tennis and golf. Another giant in high school athletics is Hopkins High School, which has won 50 state championships.
Charter schools give Twin Cities families even more options when it comes to education. The charter school movement began in Minnesota in 1991, and nearly 50,000 students attend these schools throughout the state, the majority of which are right here in the Twin Cities metro. Charter schools are independent public schools sponsored by a district, university, the state or a nonprofit organization, providing a unique experience for students. Governed and operated by licensed teachers, parents and community members, these schools are tuition-free and open to all students regardless of ability or need. They provide opportunities for students with specific talents or interests, from dual-language studies to STEM-focused curriculum.
Our world is becoming small with the rise of technology. In this ever-globalizing economy, developing multilingual skills is increasingly important, which is why the Twin Cities are proudly home to several immersion schools. Students are immersed in a foreign language from an early age at these schools that specialize in languages such as French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and more. Located in St. Louis Park, Park Spanish Immersion School is one option that promotes bilingualism in Spanish and English. The school teaches kids to speak fluently enough to master core academic subjects taught in the language. Minnetonka Public Schools also offers immersion options. When entering kindergarten, families can elect to enroll in English, Chinese or Spanish immersion programs. Other immersion schools abound throughout the metro area for French (Edina, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and St. Paul), German (St. Paul), Hmong (St. Paul), Mandarin Chinese (Forest Lake, Hopkins, Minneapolis and St. Paul) and Spanish (Cottage Grove, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Hopkins, Minneapolis, New Hope, Richfield, Robbinsdale, Roseville and St. Paul).
In the Twin Cities, students can customize their educational experience to match their own strengths and interests through a variety of advanced and alternative courses. Nearly half of Minnesota public high schools offer advanced placement courses. What’s more is participation in these courses is at an all-time high. Around 66 percent of students in these courses scored a three or higher on the final exam in 2016. Graded on a five-point scale, these exams often transfer as college credit, depending on the score and the institution’s academic policies.
In addition, many juniors and seniors elect to enroll full- or part-time in college classes, earning credits that can be applied simultaneously toward high school and college completion. Alternatively, South Saint Paul school district is home to Minnesota’s first International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, a cross-disciplinary curriculum spanning elementary to high school that aims to provide a global education and cultivate lifelong learners. Many other Twin Cities schools now offer the IB Diploma Program, including several in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, along with suburban schools such as Minnetonka High School and Brooklyn Center Senior High.
Extracurricular activities go well beyond athletics at Twin Cities public schools. Activities such as debate and theater are popular, as are Model United Nations and Youth in Government (YIG). Students in YIG get to sit in the same seats as their real-life counterparts in the capitol building in St. Paul. Another emerging leader group for high schoolers, DECA, focuses on careers in marketing, finance, management and more, providing networking opportunities and competitions all the way to the international stage. Students Today Leaders Forever is a philanthropic organization that engages middle school, high school and college students on Pay It Forward tours, giving back to cities across the country through volunteer experiences.