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City Pages Whitewashes Mpls Public Schools
Date:     8/27/2002 8:44:22 PM Central Daylight Time

Comment about  
The Learning Curve (City Pages article)
Doug Mann

According to the US secretary of Education, Rod Paige, 79 Minnesota schools
do not meet state standards. Of those substandard schools, 31 are in

The Minneapolis Public Schools administration, on the other hand, issued
"measuring up" report cards which gave passing grades to schools that do not
meet state standards, including Park View.  These conflicting appraisals are
explained away in The Learning Curve, which paints the MPS administration as
the victim of unrighteous school
bashing. According to The Learning Curve,

>In spring 2001, Park View students took the Minnesota Comprehensive
Assessment test. In August, the Minnesota Department of Children, Families
and Learning notified the school that its fifth-grade students had not shown
"adequate yearly progress" in mathematics and that it was "needing
improvement" in that part of the curriculum. That designation alone was
enough to put Park View on Paige's list of failing schools.

>What the test didn't factor in was that the student population at Park View
changed significantly during the period that was evaluated. Of the 28 fifth
graders enrolled in 2000-01, 15 had attended the third grade somewhere else.
In other words, the Department of Children, Families and Learning was judging
two different sets of kids. "What you had was a school that had a dramatic
change in the configuration of students that they received," explains Rick
Spicuzza, assistant director for research, evaluation, and assessment with
the Minneapolis Public Schools.  [The Learning Curve]

As far as the district is concerned, only the progress of those 13 fifth
graders continuously enrolled since the third grade really matters.  

>The 13 students who were enrolled at Park View continuously from third grade
to fifth grade improved their math scores at a rate twice that of the
district average. What's more, according to the Minneapolis Public Schools'
2001 Measuring Up report, Park View's overall performance, especially
considering the demographic makeup of its student body, has been commendable.
The school was given a rating of 2.8 on a 5-point scale, which puts it right
in the middle of the pack in Minneapolis. The assessment takes into account
33 different variables, ranging from student safety to test results.
(Spicuzza says that the 2002 report is not yet complete, but he believes Park
View's ranking will jump to over 3.) The school also received two awards from
the school district in recent years for student achievement. "This school has
made great strides from where they were," Spicuzza maintains [The Learning

This is not the first time the district has inflated the rate of growth in
math and reading for continuously enrolled students, and further claimed that
continuously enrolled students were making "great strides," by comparing
different sets of students from one year to the next. Typically, more
students with below-average test scores are withdrawn from a school than
students with above-average scores. The district used the same statistical
trick in the 1998 Better Schools Referendum Report Card (dated January 1999)
to falsely claim that students in the Minneapolis Public Schools were making
gains in math and reading growth above the national norm. See "Perfuming the
Pig," the text of a speech I gave at the December 15, 1998 meeting of the
Minneapolis Board of Education   

The "measuring up" report cards and the statements of district officials,
including Carol Johnson, are designed to calm the waters and whitewash a
school system where a majority of students are failing to thrive
academically. That needs to change, and yesterday won't be soon enough.

-Doug Mann, Kingfield and the new 8th ward
Minneapolis School Board Candidate