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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

achievement gap

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[Mpls] Racial achievement gap, Doug Mann's comment

Socialist2001 at Socialist2001 at
Mon Oct 11 23:00:24 CDT 2004

Strib Question: What specific steps would you advocate to reduce or eliminate 
                  the racial achievement gap in Minneapolis schools?
                  Why are 21 of the district's 23 "racially isolated schools" (at least 93% 
                  students of color) poor performing schools? Perhaps it has something to do with a 
                  high concentration of inexperienced teachers and extraordinarily high teacher 
                  turnover in "racially isolated" schools. Whites are also better represented 
                  in "high-ability" curriculum tracks. I advocate the following 3 steps to reduce 
                  the gap:  
                  1) Distribute teachers on probationary status (hired within 3 years) evenly 
                  through the district.  In 2004 the district laid off 608 teachers employed for 
                  up to 5 years, including 455 probationary teachers. That's an awful lot of 
                  probationary teachers, given that there were fewer than 1,700 full-time teacher 
                  positions in regular and special Ed programs (includes prep-time) budgeted for 
                  2003-2004. I have asked the district administration and board members for a 
                  breakdown of probationary teachers by program and grade level. My best guess is 
                  that more than one-fourth of the teachers in regular Ed programs were on 
                  probationary status last spring. And probationary teachers are heavily concentrated 
                  in the district's racially isolated schools. 
                  2) Reduce the number of teachers laid off each year. The district 
                  administration certainly should not lay off teachers it plans to rehire or replace before 
                  the first day of school. Recent end-of-the-school-year layoffs have been 
                  excessive. The district laid off 608 teachers in 2004, but couldn't have justified 
                  laying off more than about 200 for the following reasons. There were 210 
                  fewer teacher jobs in the 2004-2005 budget than in the 2003-2004 budget. However 
                  it is likely that some teacher jobs were not filled in the fall of 2003 because 
                  the district doesn't rehire or replace some laid off teachers until after 
                  school begins, and student enrollment was 1600 below the estimate upon which the 
                  2003-2004 budget was based. And some teachers gave notice of plans to not 
                  continue their employment with the district in 2004-2005 by April 1, 2004.   
                  Based on incomplete information, it appears to me that the district massively 
                  realigned teacher from one program / school / grade level to another in order 
                  to save the jobs of probationary teachers. The district has failed to provide 
                  evidence necessary to evaluation the accuracy of its contention that the 
                  realignment process was done to save the jobs of tenured teachers, such the number 
                  and distribution of probationary teachers in the spring of 2004, and a break 
                  down of teacher positions that were budgeted for 2004-2005 and teacher 
                  positions that were filled prior to the start of school this fall.
                  3) Untrack the schools. The district has a duty to monitor the effects of its 
                  ability-grouping practices, and especially the outcomes for students assigned 
                  to separate classrooms according to ability in a subject area, including the 
                  practice of dividing elementary students into classes for basically low- 
                  medium- and high-ability students. We can close the gap to a significant degree by 
                  phasing out low-ability curriculum tracks, and it can be done without watering 
                  down the curriculum of the high ability tracks into which most students will 
                  be integrated.  
                  -Doug Mann, King Field
                  write-in "Doug Mann" for school board

selected writings on K-12 education