Youth Innovators Propose Solutions to Achievement Gap



Paris Carruthers, Research and Evaluation Innovator at Youthprise
Kevin Nguyen, Board of Directors at youthrive.
Shanell McCoy, Youthprise Arts Coordinator & focus group facilitator

The educational gap in Minnesota is astonishing. The fact that this state is third lowest in graduation rates is shocking. The Generation Next focus group hosted by the Youthprise Research Team opened up the conversation around the educational gap through the perspective of high school students in charter schools and Minneapolis Public Schools. Youthprise is a champion for learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota youth thrive.

Shanell McCoy, Youthprise Arts Coordinator & focus group facilitator

Shanell McCoy, Youthprise Arts Coordinator & focus group facilitator

As a facilitator, I found it interesting how quickly the youth in my focus group responded negatively to the educational system overall. There was an overwhelming desire for community. Many of the participants expressed the importance of parents becoming more involved in their child’s education teachers working to improve relationships with students.

The participants also emphasized the benefits of having positive role models in school that actually “looked” like them. The majority of staff in most schools consists of mostly white women. The participants felt as though the poor representation of people of color within the school system hindered the progression of their education. There was also a conversation about college preparation.  From an early age young students are separated into unspoken groups. They are labeled smart, not so smart, good student and bad student. These labels are given to them by the way they are treated by teachers, advisers, and administration.

The conversation is one that should be continued and expanded. The conversation should at some point include youth and adults at the same table. I enjoyed facilitating this group. I hope that the information gained from this focus group will make some kind of impact on the educational gap. Here are the key themes from youth perspective:Key Themes

Our group had some suggestions for closing the achievement gap, improving college/career readiness, early childhood education/literacy, community and the school system.

  • Create a more accountable community and wider base for support in school, at home, in relationships, in our neighborhoods. This will improve learning, motivation, relationships, the achievement gap, and early childhood education
  • Have a more interactive classroom experience
  • Be outside more often to learn outdoors while in school
  • Teach real life skills to improve readiness for college/career
  • Have more resources for financial help
  • Involve the community in support
  • Teach real developmental skills
  • Provide more “open” curriculum
  • Find positive role models and mentors
  • Parents and teachers should have stronger communication and provide more individual attention

Youth also talked about all of the influences that shape their lives: physical health, mental health, media assault, environment, relationships – all of these factors are important when considering holistic indicators that influence student success.


Paris Carruthers, Research and Evaluation Innovator at Youthprise

There was a strong feeling from all of the young people involved in the conversation that a sense of community was important and lacking. Parents and teachers, friends and elders were all named as a part of a suggested positive community. The youth believed that everyone needed to be accountable for creating that community in and out of school to create a positive future for themselves and for the younger generations.

Please join Generation Next in our campaign to build a partnership to ensure that children of all socio-economic backgrounds are prepared for success in the 21st century. Get involved here.

SIF 2015