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The 1966 Coleman Report in its Historical Context
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004
Subj: The 1966 Coleman Report in its Historical Context
Date: 11/24/2001 12:04:44 PM Central Standard Time
In a message dated 11/23/2001 4:31:41 PM Central Standard Time, [Dennis Schapiro] writes:
> I agree with JHarmon about the relationship between
> out-of-school factors and school performance, which has been
> documented a zillion times, not only by Coleman.
The 1966 Coleman report was cited by school districts around the country as evidence that integrating black kids into white schools would have little or no effect on student achievement. Coleman was in high demand as an expert witness for the school districts.
It is also important to note that the 1966 Coleman report explained differences in academic achievement between whites and blacks as a byproduct of a culture of poverty. This culture of poverty supposedly had a greater influence on blacks because of a higher concentration of poverty among blacks.
What happened after most of the racially segregated school systems were desegregated? According to the 1990 Sandia Report, the test score gap between whites and blacks declined during the 1970s and 1980s. Even as the income gap between blacks and whites was increasing during the 1980s, the test score gap was decreasing (Berliner and Biddle, 1995, The Manufactured Crisis, pages 26).
The Sandia report was a review of data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics of the US Department of Education through a testing program called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Sandia report was commissioned by the Bush, Sr. administration (1989-1992). It was also suppressed by the Bush administration (ibid, page 26).
The Education Agenda of the first Bush Administration was basically that of the Reagan administration, which issued a report called "A Nation at Risk" in 1983. According to that report the educational establishment was heading in the wrong direction. The 1966 Coleman report was cited by "A Nation at Risk" as evidence that very little progress could be made in closing the academic achievement gap between white and black students due to the exceptionally strong link between income and educational outcomes.
The Bush administration evidently objected to releasing the Sandia report because its findings didn't agree with the "Nation at Risk" rhetoric about a rising tide of mediocrity eroding the foundations of America's educational system. It seemed that the educational establishment's quest to obtain more equal outcomes between students was harming the best and the brightest students, or so the argument goes. The problem with the Sandia report was it found that high achieving students made significant gains during an era of "forced bussing," widespread resistance to and rejection of ability-grouping, and the diversion of resources to poor people, the disabled, and other "special interest groups" (ibid, page 139).
By the early 1990s, the educational establishment was moving in the direction which the Reagan and Bush administrations had worked so hard to steer it. The Clinton administration did not attempt a major course correction.
What's the impact on the Minneapolis Public Schools?
1) Like all of the major school systems that have returned to racially-segregrated neighborhood schools, the Minneapolis Public School system has seen a widening of the academic achievement gap. The school board can not point to a single urban school district that is fulfilling the promise to "close the gap" by resegregating its schools. Schools that serve predominantly black, high poverty neighborhoods are generally inferior to schools that serve predominantly white, low-poverty schools, not only in terms of educational outcomes, but also in terms of important educational inputs like the average level of teacher expertise. Minneapolis is certainly not an exception to the rule.
2) The MPS curriculum is now aligned to the "profiles of learning" work readiness curriculum and the Outcome-Based Education model (more on this later). Most students are excluded from the academic / college-preparatory programs (the gifted and talented programs).
Dennis Schapiro says:
>...and I want to go on record as saying that I don't
> see it as an evasion of responsibility for school quality by
> diverting attention to "fixing kids and communities of color."
-Doug Mann, King Field
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