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U of MN study on unequal access to education (by race & income)

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U of MN study on unequal access to education by race & income

[Excerpt from article originally published in the MN Daily]

A study released May 15 from the University's Institute on Race and Poverty aims to show how unequal access to quality education is in Twin Cities schools.

The 56-page report, “The Choice is Ours: Expanding Educational Opportunity for all Twin Cities Children,” details the number of schools in the area that are “segregated,” or have a concentration of one racial group disproportionately higher than the rest of the district's schools...[content deleted]

...Steven Liss, director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Minneapolis Public Schools, didn’t fully agree with the findings. “The report is clearly well-researched, but it implies students have to be in an integrated setting to achieve,” he said. “And that can be done without shipping our kids to the suburbs.”

[Doug Mann] The Choice is Yours report starts off with the contention that

"Research shows that more than three-quarters of the difference in academic achievement among students is explained by the socio-economic status of peers, rather than general differences in school facilities and programs...

[still quoting] "The percentage of poor children in a school is an extremely strong predictor of inequality in educational outcomes...." As fifty years of sociological data have made clear, "being born into a poor family places students at risk, but to be assigned to a school with a high concentration of poverty poses a second, independent disadvantage that poor children attending middle class schools do not face." The harms of economically segregated schools disproportionately fall on poor, nonwhite children. They are much more likely to live in poor neighborhoods and to be educated in schools with high proportions of poor students than their [poor] white counterparts. [end quote]

The current Minnesota Desegregation Rule allows school districts to have "racially identifiable schools," i.e., schools where the enrollment of students of color is more than 20% above the district average for grade levels served, provided that educational inputs are comparable to those of schools that are not racially identifiable.

The MN Desegregation Rule is based on a finding of fact that racial and economic integration of the student population, by itself, has little to no impact on academic achievement. Differences in outcomes between students with similar background characteristics are explained by differences in educational inputs provided by the schools. Racially identifiable schools are therefore permitted if, on average, they have educational inputs comparable to schools that are not racially identifiable, such as the qualifications and experience of teachers, stability of the teaching staff, etc.

The Choice is Yours report does not consider, or attempt to explain exceptions to the rule that outcomes for most students at high-poverty schools are worse than for poor students who are integrated into low-poverty schools. In recent years, 3 extremely high-poverty schools in Minneapolis, Hale, Hall, and North Star have "beat the odds," i.e., did a little better than average on standardized test scores and had other positive, and seemingly unpredictable outcomes.

More exceptions to the rule: In the year 2000 The Education Trust identified 4,577 high-performing, high-poverty and/or minority schools, which educated about 2,070,000 students, including about 1,280,000 low-income students, 564,000 African-American students; and 600,000 Latino students. [Dispelling the Myth Revisited, The Education Trust,]

There are also studies of the influence of school characteristics which did not support the conclusion that "...more than three-quarters of the difference in academic achievement among students is explained by the socio-economic status of peers, rather than general differences in school facilities and programs..." For example, the Minneapolis School District has found that teacher staff stability strongly correlates with student achievement. And,

"In an analysis of 900 Texas school districts, Ronald Ferguson found that teachers' expertise -- as measured by scores on a licensing examination, master's degrees, & experience -- accounted for about 40% of the measured variance in students' reading and mathematics achievement at grades 1 through 11..." -Nov. 1997 "Doing What matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching," by Linda Darling-Hammond, Prepared for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

For the most part, high poverty, high-minority schools have high concentrations of inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover rates. About 60% of teachers stay in the profession for more than 3 years, only about 50% teach for more than 5 years. And those inexperienced teachers are heavily concentrated in high-poverty, high-minority schools.

"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 cited] September 2004, Minnesota Public Radio, idea generator: Closing the gap, teachers

Using data accessible at the MN Dept. of Ed website, Michael Atherton, a member of the Minneapolis issues list found a very strong negative correlation within district schools between the percentage of African American students and the percentage of teachers employed with the district for more than 10 years. Atherton estimated this correlation to be about -0.5 in elementary and high school grades and over -0.8 in middle school grades. No correlation is a 0.0 (zero) and a perfect negative correlation
is a -1.0 (negative one point zero), i.e., no teachers with 10 plus years of experience in an all black school.

School District leaders approved a neighborhood school plan in 1995 that made schools less integrated by race and income. The board promised to make the schools more equal, but never came up with an equalization plan. The Desegregation Rule approved by the legislature in 1999 requires a plan with measurable goals and time-tables to close educational input gaps between racially identifiable schools and other schools.

The Mayor and the entire City Council endorsed the neighborhood school plan in 1996, and pledged to desegregate the schools by desegregating the neighborhoods. Another unkept promise.

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