Make your own free website on

Doug Mann LPN, LNC

Minneapolis School Superintendent Problems

Home | Consumer Information | Resume | Education advocacy | Writings | Links | Nursing | Nursing Homes | French & Spanish | Modern Greek | Mann for School Board in 2008

"Transparency" and institutional racism 

Re: [Mpls] Superintendent problem

Who was occupying the superintendent's seat at the last school board meeting (Bill Green wasn't there)? Was that not the acting superintendent?

Again the board picked a superintendent, this time Bill Green, without a public meeting, without public input. The decision was make behind closed doors. So much for "transparency." Any member of the board could have refused to go along. Any board member could have said "we need to discuss this in an open meeting with some public input." But that didn't happen.

As Ron Edwards stated, before we select the conductor of the education orchestra, we-the-people ought to decide what kind of music the orchestra should play. The board promised to organize such a discussion before hiring Peebles, but somehow that didn't happen.

At the most recent, regular, board meeting, Sharon Henry-Blythe reminded everybody of a report to the board given by Dave Heistad about high teacher turnover and a high concentration of inexperienced teachers in schools / programs where students of color are over-represented. Sharon called that "institutional racism." That's an accurate label, by the way.

Well, what are we going to do about institutional racism? Lydia Lee explained that unstable staffing in racially identifiable schools is the result of teacher choice, i.e., there is nothing we can do about it. Joe Erickson made a remark about how, in the course of their K-12 school careers, students spend about 80% of their waking hours outside of school. Therefore institutional racism in the schools is not a big deal.

Minnesota has a Desegregation Rule which states that
schools don't have to get "equal outcomes" between white and nonwhite students, but that schools that are "racially identifiable" must have educational inputs that are comparable to those provided to schools that are not racially identifiable. Teaching experience is explicitly identified as a critical educational input. A racially identifiable school is one where the proportion of students of color is 20% above the district average in grade levels served.

The statement of need and reasonableness for the MN
Desegregation Rule says that requiring education inputs
for racially identifiable schools to be comparable to those provided to schools that are not racially identifiable is reasonable because the state constitution says that the state government shall maintain a uniform system of public education that provides an adequate education to all students;  the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the US constitution requires equal accommodations regardless of race; and discrimination against protected classes is subjected to "strict scrutiny" per federal case law, i.e., discrimination against a protected class is generally not allowed for any reason.

Dennis Schapiro jumped into the discussion to defend the thesis that schools don't have much affect on the life outcomes of its students, but that families and the entire social environment outside of school does. Here I will address a couple of his statements:

dennis schapiro wrote:

>I assume you are aware of the national studies of the dramatic
>differences in the size of vocabulary of kids coming from various
>class backgrounds. I know you have had a birds-eye view of youth
>street culture. Think that's the sort of thing for which schools are
>responsible? Think that supports the learning environment in schools?
>Wanna blame a teacher for it?

I have heard of a study regarding differences in the size of vocabulary of kids from various class backgrounds. It reportedly concluded that kids with the bigger vocabulary at age 5 are smarter, and have a larger life-long learning capacity. And differences in learning capacity have something to do with early learning experiences creating connections in the brain, connections that will never be made if they are not
made in early childhood. That hypothesis is used to explain the differences in average scores in reading and writing in the public schools. There is a phenomenon called "imprinting," where a member of a species learns a set of behaviors without any instruction at a certain stage of development. And if it isn't learned at that stage of development it won't be learned. The acquisition of speech by humans is an example of "imprinting," the actualization of an ability to learn that is hard-wired [in one's brain]. However, exposure to language is very rarely so restricted among the members any "race" [due to cultural deprivation] that long-term language-learning ability is seriously impaired. Moreover, the ability to decode written language is an ability so recently acquired, a mere 10,000 years or so, that the ability to learn to read is not yet hard-wired into the brains of our species.

>I support choice. Public schools have always failed a lot of kids.
>But they have never (NEVER, Wizard, NEVER) been able to overcome the
>effects of parents and community, never prevented the
>intergenerational transfer of advantage, never been able to reverse
>the effects of policies created elsewhere than concentrate poverty.

We saw tremendous progress toward "closing the gap" between black and white 13 year olds in scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading exams during the 1970s and early 1980s. About 50% of that gap was closed. Was it just a coincidence
that "root and branch" desegregation of the public school system got under way after the 1968 Green Decision (US Supreme Court). After Green, schools were required to integrate black students AND THEIR TEACHERS into white schools.

And there is the study of Texas schools done by Ronald Ferguson and others which found that about 40% of the variability in test scores between K-12 students in English and math is attributable to teacher expertise, measured as years of experience, advanced degrees (which correlates with experience) and scores on teacher licensing exams. 

See: "Evidence that school policies matter"


"The Coleman Report" by Doug Mann
Edited by University of Washington faculty

Re: Minneapolis Public Schools: Posts to the Minneapolis issues listserv