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Minneapolis school board candidates & the achievement gap   |   Ability grouping students & teachers, Minnesota's "separate but equal" doctrine   |   Ability grouping & the achievement gap

Ability grouping students & teachers, Minnesota's "separate but equal" doctrine
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
Another Option for Minneapolis School Board Voters (2004 General Election)
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004

Mpls issues list
Subj:      Re: [mpls] school board candidates
Date:     10/1/2004 12:26:18 AM Central Daylight Time

In a message dated 9/30/2004 7:52:58 PM Central Daylight Time, Mark Snyder writes:

<< If students designated as "low-ability" learners are held back by limited curriculum, ineffective learning strategies and low expectations, what happens to the kids who are coming into the school system unprepared to learn and cannot keep up with the same academic track as other students?>>

What kids are you talking about? Who are the kids who aren't prepared to learn, can't keep up, in your estimation? (What percentage of the overall student population? Of the major racial subgroups? Of those eligible for free and reduced price lunch?)

<< I'm having a hard time seeing how this situation would be any better than the problems you claim are caused by ability-grouping. I also wonder which kids are more likely to cause a disruption: the ones who work in groups where they're all at about the same level or the ones who are either ahead of or behind the pace of the class and so are likely bored, frustrated or both?>>

K-3 students spend a majority of the day in a mixed-ability classroom. In schools where students are assigned to separate classrooms for reading instruction according to "ability" or achievement, who is going to be better prepared to learn? A) students who learn the higher-order reading skills  B) students in
the not-yet-ready to learn how to read class.

Who is going to have an easier time keeping up with material that is presented to all of the students in the mixed ability classroom in other subject areas?  Same multiple guesses as above.

Students placed in low ability reading classrooms not going to be prepared to learn much in a mixed ability classroom, especially in relation to whole classroom instruction. A large proportion of African American students are put in the low-ability reading groups, fail to thrive academically, are diagnosed as having an
emotional-behavioral disorder, and become a source of special Ed revenue for the district when they fall a couple years behind grade level expectations.

The district is also ability-grouping its teachers. Overall, the least effective teachers are going to be inexperienced teachers in schools with high teacher turnover. It just happens that 21 of the district's 23 racially isolated schools (a school where the enrollment of students of color is more than 20% above the district average) are also poor performing schools. I bet you will find that teacher turnover and / or the concentration of inexperienced teachers is high in those racially isolated, poor performing schools.

The current Minnesota Desegregation rule allows school districts to maintain racially isolated schools as long as the educational inputs are roughly equal to the district's other schools. It's basically the "separate but equal" doctrine articulated in the US Supreme Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The "equal" part of the doctrine was never enforced.

Since 1996 the Minneapolis school district's desegregation plan has been to rely on the city government to make good on its pledge to the state board of education in 1996 to take steps to desegregate the city's neighborhoods (which hasn't happened yet). Many of the school board's actions have had a segregative
effect (re: race), including approval of attendance boundaries, new school sites, changes in grade level configurations, etc.   

-Doug Mann, King Field
write-in Mann for school board