Columbia Heights Schools leaders examine why so many students leave

  • Article by: Shannon Prather , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2013 - 2:31 PM

More than 1,000 of the city’s children attend neighboring or private schools. Officials ask exiting families why, hoping some will reconsider.

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gophers2013Mar. 6, 13 4:07 PM

Both of our sons graduated from Columbia Heights. My oldest was a national merit scholar who went on to St. Olaf and Notre Dame. When people would tell me how bad the schools were, I would mention this to them and they would say, "Well, he was really smart." Then I would point out that our youngest son, who was more of a "middle of the road" student, worked for 2 years before he headed off to college and got a higher ACT score two years out of school than my nephew who had just graduated from the supposedly "perfect" school district of St. Anthony. They would then just change the subject, or tell me that their move was in the best interest of their kids. I commend the district for trying to get a handle on this, but I'm not sure how accurate the information will be. Nobody wants to come right out and say that the reason they left is because they think there are too many students of color. By going through the CH schools K-12, both of my sons went into the real world with a good education and completely comfortable with the increasing diversity of our state and nation.

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mbrockoffMar. 6, 13 4:50 PM

My kids open enrolled in Mounds View school district because they started school there when I lived in New Brighton and didn't want them to switch when I moved out. I kept them there because of their band programs and special education programs. Now with their early college program I would never take them out. No other district in my area offers my children what Mounds View does.

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metalmulishaMar. 6, 13 8:28 PM

Well here's a thing I went to Heights and left for a very simple reason that could've easily been dealt with. I was getting bullied constantly and the school didn't do anything about it, I was even threatened to be killed and after I went to the school with proof of the murderous threat they worst they did was suspend the student for the weekend.....THE WEEKEND!!!!! Common Heights! Seriously I was going there ever since kindergarten and after my junior year of high school I just couldn't take one more year. So Heights if you want your kids who where being bullied to stay DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE BULLY! You don't just give the bully a slap on the wrist for giving a death threat you expel them, so there's just some small advice for Columbia Heights High School.

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cookecustomMar. 7, 13 9:20 AM

Be apart of the solution! All students can get a quality education in the Columbia Heights school district. Send your kids to school in your district where you pay taxes and keep our community healthy. Both my daughter a sophomore and my son an 8th grader attend Columbia Heights schools. Last quarter they both got straight A report cards; sure they are smart kids and they did not have to leave the district achieve this. Neither of my children has been bullied. I am sure there are bully’s in our schools as there are in every school across the nation. This is not a reason to leave the school district. Our schools have the latest technology in computers, updated curriculum, dedicated teachers and administrators, and new relevant programs. Both of my children are in Band and involved in after school sports programs that help keep them engaged in school. Our schools are diverse, embrace it, it is a good thing, all people need to work together to make our community and nation great. To do otherwise will leave talent and dreams unrealized and a more dysfunctional community. We are on the right track, be involved, go to school board meetings or the PTO/PTA; support our students and our good and hard working community!

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colhtsmomMar. 7, 13 8:55 PM

As a 31 year resident of Heights, I too felt disloyal moving my child out of the district to the neighboring school district but then Heights school district has shown NO loyalty to it's residents. They failed to provide a viable and/or valuable education to the children who live in this district. They chose to except a large volume of Minneapolis students who came with multiple needs Heights was not equiped to handle. I commend the leadership at Columbia Academy for the progress they have made to improve the school but there is a very long list of changes that need to be made and not all pertain to the middle school. For instance the high school leaders, please take a good look at your curriculum. Is it really geared for the college bound student? Are you really only capable of offering one foreign language? Are students really only interested in playing basketball? With every budget cut you make you've made the district less desirable to attend. Heights district is one of many failing districts. While not sanctioned yet their scores are equal to Minneapolis and are no longer comparable to other suburban districts. The school district has done a great diservice to the home owners in Columbia Heights. With a failing district it makes it even more difficult to get a fair price on their homes. It's too late for this generation of Heights Children but hopefully they will be ready for the next generation.

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gophers2013Mar. 8, 13 1:16 AM

Colhtsmom's comments are a good example of why Columbia Heights is having such a hard time retaining its' students. By reading her post you would assume that there are no classes for college bound students. But they actually offer thirteen Advanced Placement classes, as well as PSEO, which my son took advantage of. Or that the only sport available is basketball. But a quick look at their website lists eight boys sports, twelve girls sports, and adapted sports for special needs students. And, of course, the usual offerings that other schools have, like band, math team, science team, robotics, knowledge bowl, or destination imagination. One foreign language? Then why does the staff directory list french and spanish teachers? If I had believed every rumor I heard, I would have sent my children to St. Anthony too. But I didn't, and I cherish all the memories of the sports and activities that my sons participated in, and the wonderful, committed teachers who taught them. The Columbia Heights schools have changed a lot over 31 years, and the biggest change is the diversity of its' students. Parents, you do have a choice - you can send your children to schools that look like the world that they will live in, or send them to all white schools that look like the world that you grew up in. Teaching diversity is one thing - living it is another.

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davehougMar. 8, 13 5:05 PM

“I am looking out of the best interest of my kids and the ­education they get - - - Without safety & rigorous academics.......you get those who don't care about safety & rigorous academics

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str1358kMar. 8, 13 7:25 PM

My kids attended school only in Columbia Heights until they went to college. There is plenty to like about the school district. But there are many problems as well. Colhtsmom obviously had enough concerns that she felt it necessary to move her kids to another district. I hope that she responds to the survey, because the district may learn something from it. For gophers2013 to hold her up as an example of why the district has a hard time retaining students is, ironically, an example of why people leave the district. When people have complaints or problems, nobody is willing to listen, let alone do anything about them. To imply that colhtsmom pulled her kids because she is believing rumors is insulting. I hope the district leaders will listen to the surveys better than they have listened so far.

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aijazuzuMar. 8, 13 7:38 PM

One of the delights of the Columbia Heights School District is its size! And, one of the problems with the Columbia Heights School District is its size. Sometimes being small is a double-edged sword. I find it odd that families would be reluctant to return surveys. I always thought surveys could be anonymous. Seems to me the families being surveyed may be nervous about WHO will be looking at those surveys.

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gophers2013Mar. 9, 1311:47 AM

This has certainly been an interesting discussion, with definitely divergent views. I would encourage everyone here to read Myron Orfield's December 2012 study "Open Enrollment and Racial Segregation in the Twin Cities: 2000-2010", published by the University of Minnesota Law School. Using open enrollment data from the last decade, he makes a compelling argument on how white parents are using OE to re-segregate twin city schools. He pays particular attention to data drawn from Columbia Heights and Richfield to show how white parents in these communities are open enrolling into districts where the percentage of white students is substantially higher (eg. St. Anthony-New Brighton, where the percentage of white students is 43% higher than Columbia Heights). As I mentioned in my very first post, I support sending out the surveys, but I am concerned that the information returned will be less than honest. If OE participants put down that a lack of technology is the reason they left, will the district spend millions of dollars to upgrade technology thinking that these parents will return, when it is clear from Prof. Orfield's data that white flight is the primary driving force in leaving. As a homeowner in Columbia Heights, I want my tax dollars wisely spent, investing in programs that benefit students and not based on suspect information. Rudy Perpich was a good man who wanted to improve all schools, but I doubt that if he were alive today he would be happy to see a program that he championed turned into a mechanism for racial segregation.

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