Strib Question: What specific steps would you advocate to reduce or eliminate
the racial achievement gap in Minneapolis schools?
"From 60 to 90 percent of the gap, researchers say, is tied to family,
community and neighborhood. A good analysis is in Richard Rothstein's "Class and
Schools." In "The Black-White Test Score Gap," Christopher Jencks and Meredith
Phillips concluded that only two strategies are promising: Better early
childhood education and more support for families." - Dennis Schapiro
Not all researchers say that 60 to 90% of the gap is tied to family,
community and neighborhood. The research that I've seen suggests that more than 50% of
the gap is due to the quality of instruction that students receive at school,
and that schools have some influence, for better or worse, on the culture of
the community and neighborhoods they serve.
>From the Minnesota Public Radio web site: "Are you experienced? Teachers with
less than three years of experience are twice as likely to work in schools
with high proportions of minority and low income students, yet students learn
better under teachers with five or more years of experience." [two sources
In a 1997 report, "Doing What Matters Most: Investing in quality teaching,"
Linda Darlington Hammond cited an analysis of data from 900 Texas school
districts by Ronald Ferguson and others, which concluded that about 40% of the
variance in measured achievement in math and English in grades 1 to 11 can be
attributed to teacher expertise, as measured by scores on licensing exams, masters
degrees and years of experience.
In a Frontline interview, Christopher Jencks stated that "the gap" decreased
significantly during the 1980s, judging by National Assessment of Educational
Progress exams in reading and math, and by other measures. See: Frontline
Interview with Christopher Jencks
In the same Frontline interview, Jencks also stated he believes that the gap
is probably due entirely to environmental factors rather than genes, and that
attributing the black-white gap to effects of culture is not unlike blaming
the gap on genetics, in as much as it is something about which one can't do much
I have noted that the difference in average scores on NAEP reading exams for
(non-hispanic) black and white 13 year olds decreased by about 50% between
1970 and 1988. The gap in math scores also decreased during that time, but not to
the same degree. The gap in both areas has widened since the late 1980s.
I believe that school reforms can eliminate much of the racial learning gap.
However, the political establishment (including the leadership of the
Democratic and Republican parties) has opted for strategies that are ineffective and
efficient. And the same political establishment has opted to do very little to
enforce fair employment and housing laws.
Also see "The Black-White Test Score Gap" by Richard Rothstein
-Doug Mann, King Field
write in "Doug Mann" for school board