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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

The racial learning gap in the Minneapolis Public Schools

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The racial learning gap in Minneapolis Public Schools

 The school district administration and DFL politicians having been talking about closing the "racial learning gap" for many years, but they don't want to do what is necessary to close the gap.

Some Minneapolis school teachers tell me that students fail to thrive academically because they are not coming to school prepared to learn. The problem is "the poverty" and a bad home life, not inferior schools. That has also been the rap I have heard from most school board candidates during the past 6 election cycles, including this year's batch of DFL endorsed school board candidates.

In my opinion, high-poverty schools are generally poor performing schools
due to institutional factors, such as overexposing students to inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover rates. Nationwide, about two-thirds of public school teachers with less than 3 years of experience are working in schools where students of color are over-represented. And only about 60% of new teachers stay in the profession for more than 3 years.

"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.

Myth: Schools with high concentrations of poor and/or minority students inevitably get poor results due to disadvantages associated with poverty and discrimination that goes on outside of school.

Reality: 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,]

In Minneapolis, a few of the district's extremely high-poverty schools have done better than average on achievement test scores and other indicators of school quality. In a report to the board a few years ago, a teacher at North Star elementary school reported that the teaching staff at North Star had been pretty stable in recent years. North Star is one of those schools where the kids have been doing better than average. Over 90% of North Star students have been eligible for free or reduced priced lunches, about 90% of the students are African or African American (very few white students).

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