The Guide to Good Schools

    From cradle to career, Minnesota provides a wealth of opportunities for educational success.

    Minnesota is frequently touted as one of the smartest, most well educated states in the nation. Its schools, from pre-K to college, boast a laundry list of accolades. Our educational opportunities abound, resulting in one of the richest learning environments in the country. 

    Beginning with public and private grade schools, Minnesota students receive a top-notch education and graduate high school at a rate of 82 percent, on par with the country’s average. More than one in three Minnesota adults aged 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree—the 10th highest proportion of a state’s population nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey. And thanks in large part to advanced education, Minnesota households are also wealthier—the median income is $60,828. That’s about 13 percent higher than the rest of the country. 

    Every step of the way, Minnesota proves to be a world-class leader in academic standards and outcomes.

    Public Schools

    Families have a tremendous variety of schools to choose from. Open enrollment, charter schools, immersion programs, alternative schools and other types span the Twin Cities.

    Much of the public school system here utilizes an open enrollment policy, which makes it easier for families trying to find schools outside their immediate neighborhoods. Open enrollment also inspires schools to maintain a competitive edge in order to keep students in their home neighborhoods.

    The Minneapolis School District educates more than 35,000 students across 76 schools, while the St. Paul School District, which has been in operation for more than 150 years, educates nearly 40,000 students across 58 schools. 

    In addition to outstanding education, many suburban public schools offer excellent athletics, keeping kids active and involved beyond the classroom. As of 2016, Eden Prairie boasts the No. 1 high school athletic program in the state, and ranks as the fifth best in the entire country according to ranking website Niche. Edina High School has won more than 150 state championships, including boys’ hockey and girls’ tennis and golf. Hopkins High School has taken home 50 state championships, the latest win going to the boys’ cross-country team that won its fifth title in 2015. Other great schools for athletics include Minnetonka, Wayzata, and Chanhassen, as well as a host of private schools. 

    Another abundance of options lies in our charter schools. Minnesota was the birthplace for the charter school movement in 1991; today, more than 47,000 students attend 165 charter schools across the state, 60 percent of which serve the Twin Cities area alone. What’s more, 15 more schools are set to open across Minnesota in 2016 and in the years to follow. Charter schools are independent public schools sponsored by a school district, university, the state, or a nonprofit organization. These schools are tuition-free and open to all students regardless of ability or need. They are governed and operated jointly by licensed teachers, parents, and community members, and provide opportunities for students with specific talents or interests, from dual-language studies to STEM-focused curriculum. 

    Immersion schools also 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).

    Students can also tailor their educational experience to their own strengths and interests through a variety of advanced and alternative courses. Nearly 55 percent of Minnesota public high schools offer advanced placement courses, with 66 percent of test takers scoring a three or higher on exams—that’s 7 percent higher than the national average—according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Often these exams translate into college credit. In addition, many public school juniors and seniors may enroll full- or part-time in college classes, earning credits that can be applied simultaneously toward high school and college completion.  

    Private Schools

    Whether religiously affiliated or not, private schools prepare students for college and can serve as a great alternative to public school. 

    In Minnesota there are 94,917 children enrolled in 652 private schools, varying in size from a small student population, to those enrolling more than 1,000.  Independent from government, these schools have the freedom to design their own curriculum and assessment system to suit the needs of students and parents. 

    Nearly 75 percent of private schools in the state are religiously affiliated, primarily Catholic and other Christian denominations. Two popular Catholic private schools are Benilde-St. Margaret’s in Minneapolis, which serves 1,182 students in grades seven through 12, and St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall, the largest private Catholic school in the state (1,320 students) and the alma mater of Minnesota Twins catcher and first baseman Joe Mauer. 

    For a nonsectarian private school experience, The Blake School, an independent, coeducational, pre-K through grade 12 school located on three campuses in Hopkins (pre-K through 8), Minneapolis (9 through 12) and Wayzata (pre-K through 5) was named by Niche as the No. 1 private school in Minnesota in 2016.  Breck School in Minneapolis offers students another education alternative. While the majority of students at this Episcopal school are Christian, a number also come from other religious backgrounds. Breck teaches around 1,100 students in pre-K through 12th grade on one campus in Golden Valley, emphasizing the intersection of academics, arts, athletics and spirituality.

    Colleges & Universities

    Higher education shines in the state of Minnesota, as is evident in our public and private colleges and universities. 

    Our best-known post-secondary asset is the University of Minnesota, most notably the Twin Cities campuses, with the Mississippi River dividing the Minneapolis campus into the East Bank and the West Bank.With hundreds of areas of study and a proud focus on inclusivity and diversity, the U of M Twin Cities is distinctly diverse and a great choice for students of all backgrounds. Undergraduate admissions at the Twin Cities campus have reached nearly 35,000—that’s in addition to the university’s other campus schools, including  nationally recognized graduate programs. The school also ranks among the top public research universities in the country. The university’s four remaining campuses are located around the state in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester.

    The Minnesota Private College Council serves 17 liberal arts colleges and universities, including Hamline University in St. Paul (the state’s first university), St. Catherine University (locally known as St. Kate’s), and the University of St. Thomas, all located in the metro. 

    For students looking to finish a degree or go back to school, Metropolitan State University creates opportunities for working adults through day, evening and weekend courses. Students interested in specialized programs or technical schools can benefit from an education at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Art Institutes International Minnesota, Le Cordon Bleu, or the McNally Smith College of Music. No matter what type of school you choose in Minnesota, there will likely be a strong sense of community and pride. With encouraging teachers and professors and welcoming students and parents, it won’t take long to feel right at home.