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Eight proposals to 'close the gap' | Minneapolis Public Schools & the new anti-Civil Rights movement
Minneapolis Public Schools & the new anti-Civil Rights movement
Subj: [Mpls] Racism & Minneapolis Public Schools
Date: 7/6/2004 7:53:57 PM Central Daylight Time
Last evening I was a guest on Voices of the African American community on KMOJ, hosted by Spike Moss. And I have been invited back to participate in an on-air discussion of educational issues within the next few weeks.
I believe the Minneapolis school district can rapidly close most of the academic achievement gap between whites and African Americans by making some changes in how education is done in the schools. Example: create positions for
inexperienced teachers that are evenly distributed throughout the schools. In some areas the learning curve for teachers is pretty steep during their first five years as a regular classroom teacher, such as behavior and classroom
management. Students in many of the high-poverty, high-minority schools have been overexposed to new teachers, and most of the new teachers are not getting adequate supervision, training, and support.
Another reason the district is failing to adequately educate African American students is the promotion of "colorblind" discrimination in the form of 'ability-grouping' and part-to-full time curriculum tracking as early as Kindergarten. Students within an early elementary grade-level are divided into different classrooms according to perceived ability for reading instruction, and are exposed to quite different types of instruction. The "high-ability" students learn higher order reading skills than the "low-ability" students. The rest of the curriculum in the "mixed ability" classroom is hard for students to keep up with if they don't get the higher order reading instruction. The designated low-ability students usually fail to thrive academically, develop low self-esteem, and in many cases are diagnosed as having an Emotional / Behavioral disorder. Just a few years ago it was reported that about 25% of African American students fall a couple years behind grade level expectations and are diagnosed as having Emotional-Behavioral disorders.
I believe that outcomes for a majority of MPS students would improve dramatically if the general student population was learning high order reading skills, not just a minority of students designated as gifted and talented. And of course, the teachers, and especially the least experienced teachers need adequate and appropriate supervision, training and support.
The problem isn't that white teachers want to undereducate black students, in my opinion. However, teachers do discriminate based on their perception of a students academic ability, and lower-income and nonwhite students are seen as "low-ability," and their failure to thrive academically is attributed to student background characteristics and not the educational setting. That's an environment which generates negative stereotypes of African American students and positive stereotypes of white students.
I don't agree that we will close the gap by going back to racially segregating the schools. When racial segregation in the schools was legally enforced (1890s to 1960s) some black students had access to high quality educational
programs, but overall whites, and especially middle to upper class whites had much better access to high quality schools and academic programs. The process of racially segregating the school system that began in the 1890s reduced pressure on the political establishment to ensure that a high quality education is accessible to all on an equal basis.
We saw substantial progress toward closing the test score gap when the school system was moving away from color conscious and "colorblind" separation of students during the 1970s and early 1980s. That was a reflection of the pressure of a mobilized and militant civil rights movement, and the access to a quality public education was a high priority demand.
What the Minneapolis school board supports is not a "new civil rights movement" but an anti-Civil Rights agenda.
-Doug Mann, King Field
Mann for School Board