Twin Cities Public Schools

A guide to immersion, charter and traditional public schools in the Twin Cities

Photo by Minnetonka High School

From traditional to immersion and charter schools, you’ll find diverse and excellent academic opportunities in the Twin Cities. A few examples: our gifted and talented programs, our abundant extracurricular choices, our measures of accountability for academic performance and our impressive roster of highly qualified teachers. According to a report in the National Center for Education Statistics, because public school teachers are required to be certified by the state, the vast majority have opted to continue their education and earn a master’s degree.

Minnesota’s open-enrollment policy is also pretty special. It allows postsecondary students to enroll in public school districts outside of the ones where they live, a testament to the state’s forward-thinking approach. Under these laws, it’s the parents—not the districts—who decide where their students go to school. After all, it’s the parents who best know the unique needs of their children.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, more than 83,000 students—approximately 9 percent of students in the state—chose open enrollment during the 2017-18 school year. Whether parents want their kids to experience a smaller, more specialized atmosphere, or want their kids to have the electives and advanced courses of a bigger school, this option opens doors to more opportunities.

How do parents choose the right school when there are so many great options? One valuable resource is GreatSchools, a nonprofit that compiles data and reviews from parents on academic performance and equity. Other credible sites that provide school snapshots include Niche and U.S. News & World Report.

Photo by Eden Prairie High School

Traditional public schools are strong in Minnesota, and so are our charter schools. A charter school is a cross between public and private: They receive funding from the state but are exempt from certain public-school rules and regulations established by the U.S. Department of Education. Still, they must be open to all students, cannot charge tuition and cannot have religious curriculum. The idea? Let parents, licensed teachers and other community members spark innovation by running public schools outside the control of local school districts.

In 1992, Minnesota embraced the charter school movement by opening St. Paul’s City Academy, the first publicly funded, privately run charter school in the nation. Today, the most current Minnesota Department of Education data list 164 operating charter schools in Minnesota, serving approximately 57,000 K-12 students. Some popular charter schools in the Twin Cities metro that are rated highly by U.S. News & World Report include Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Eagle Ridge Academy in Eden Prairie, St. Croix Preparatory in Stillwater, St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, PIM Arts High School in Eden Prairie, Afsa High School in Vadnais Heights, Pact Charter Academy in Ramsey, Avalon School in St. Paul and North Lakes Academy in Forest Lake.

Given Minnesota’s reputation as a leader in education, it’s not surprising that you can find the Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network here, a nonprofit organization that supports dual-language and immersion education in schools. Students at immersion schools in the Twin Cities learn languages like Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Hmong, Korean or Ojibwe. The rationale here is that students who learn another language better compete in an increasingly global market, perform better on standardized tests and develop cultural awareness. As for multilingual schools, well-respected options include Lakes International Language Academy (LILA) in Forest Lake, L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion School in St. Paul, Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion in St. Paul Park, Sleepy Tigers Chinese Immersion in Minnetonka, Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool in Hopkins, Twin Cities German Immersion School in St. Paul, Emerson Spanish School in Minneapolis, Sejong Academy Korean Immersion School in St. Paul, Adams Spanish Immersion Elementary School in St. Paul, Yinghua Academy in Minneapolis, Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion in Eden Prairie and Woodcrest Spanish Immersion School in Fridley.

Check out our guides to private schools and colleges and universities in the Twin Cities, and find even more schools in your area by searching our education directory.