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School desegregation plan should be amended
Comment by Doug Mann, 11 Feb 2005

The new state Desegregation Rule defines a "racially identifiable school " as "a school where the enrollment of protected students [e.g., students of color] at the school within a district is more than 20 percentage points above the enrollment of protected students in the entire school district for the grade levels served by that school." - Source: Statement of need and reasonableness in the matter of the proposed rules relating to desegregation: Minnesota Rules, Chapter 3535.0110 subpart 6 "Racially identifiable school within a district" page 29

The Minneapolis School District currently has 23 racially identifiable schools, including 21 on the list of schools that are failing to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (per "No Child Left Behind" legislation).  There are huge differences in education-related outcomes (e.g., test scores, H.S. dropout/pushout rates, attendance rates, suspension / expulsion rates) between most of the racially identifiable and most of the schools that are not "racially identifiable."

The Minneapolis School District recently adopted a desegregation plan that should be reviewed and amended for the following reasons:

1) The desegregation plan does not include information that might (and undoubtedly will) show huge differences in the qualifications and experience of teachers in "racially identifiable schools" compared to other schools in the district, information which "the commissioner of education shall request and the district shall provide." [Statement of need and reasonableness in the matter of the proposed rules relating to desegregation: Minnesota Rules, Rule 3535.0130 subpart 2. E., pages 37-38.]

The state's Desegregation Rule holds that discriminatory intent is evident, and effective remedies must be found when, on average, racially identifiable schools are grossly inferior to other schools within the same district with respect to educational inputs. And teacher qualifications and experience are critical educational inputs.

2) When members of protected classes (e.g. students of color) comprise more than 90% of a school's enrollment, the district must give those students the option of attending schools that are not racially identifiable, unless the district can demonstrate that the quality of education provided at the school is not inferior to what is provided at schools serving a majority of the district's students. The district's desegregation plan is not in compliance with this requirement of the Desegregation Rule.

3) The desegregation plan proposes to offer unspecified incentives for teachers to bid into and stay at poor performing schools. That will not be an effective remedy for a high concentration of inexperienced teachers and the high teacher turnover rate at most racially identifiable schools, given the district's practice of laying off teachers that it (in actuality) plans to later rehire or replace.  In 2004 the district laid off 608 teachers, even though it projected a reduction of fewer than 200 full-time teaching positions.

The large majority of teachers who get lay off notices look for another job because they don't know if they will get a reemployment offer. On the other hand, teachers who don't get a lay off notice generally don't spend their summer vacations looking for a new job. And teachers are not able to accept a job in another school district unless they resign and give notice by April 1 per state law (the teacher tenure act).

For many years the district has been laying off many teachers at the end of each school year who are certain to be rehired or replaced at the beginning of the next school year. That is why, despite the elimination of about 360 full-time teacher jobs in the budgets adopted in 2002 and 2003 (and some the year before), 455 of the 608 teachers laid off in 2004 were probationary teachers (employed with the district for less than 3 years). And get this: The district's 2003-2004 budget funded fewer than 1,700 full time teacher positions in regular and special Ed programs.

Most of the new teachers get assigned to schools that serve low-income, high-minority neighborhoods. It is impossible to build strong educational programs and to have any hope of closing the gap in academic performance between white and minority students within the district when such an unstable staffing situation exists in most of the district's 23 "racially identifiable schools" (predominantly nonwhite schools). The board has unfairly blamed students, parents, and communities of color for the failure of those schools.

The district uses annual layoffs to hold down payroll costs. This practice may save money in the short-run, but its long-term costs are devastating. The district cannot develop a strong educational program at any school without a stable teaching staff.

In my opinion, probationary teachers should be more or less evenly distributed throughout the district because students at some schools are being overexposed to new teachers. New teachers generally have a steep learning curve relating to classroom (and behavior) management during their first 5 years on the job. The district could do a much better job of training (and retaining) new teachers by integrating them into all of the district's schools, not just "the tough schools." And the district's stronger programs might even be strengthened if confronted with the task of breaking-in a reasonable number of new teachers each year. Unfortunately, many teachers oppose this remedy, saying "I've paid my dues. It's always been done that way, etc."

4) The plan does not consider alternatives to tracking. Unbeknownst to many people, a large majority of the district's schools assign students as early as Kindergarten, on at least a part-time basis, to separate classrooms for instruction according to whether they are considered slow, medium, or fast learners. This is commonly done with reading instruction in the early elementary grades. Students of Color are over-represented in classrooms for "low-ability" learners and underrepresented in the high level classes. In my opinion, the district could put the general student population on a high-level, college-bound curriculum track and could greatly expand IB and AP classes in High School without watering down the curriculum if it also stabilizes the teaching staff at all of the district's schools.    

WHAT IS ABILITY GROUPING?

The practice of placing students in classes where higher or lower order knowledge and skills are taught based on "performance," i.e., a demonstration of what a student knows and can do, is called "ability-grouping" by the federal agency that monitors compliance with rules about ability-grouping: the Office of Civil Rights, US Department of Education. According to a report by the US Commission on Civil Rights,

"Although the educational justification of a practice is determined on a case-by-case basis, the Federal courts and OCR [Office of Civil Rights] have relied on three general conditions, in various forms and combinations, to determine whether an ability-grouping practice is educationally justified. First, students should be grouped in specific subjects based on their achievement or ability in those subjects, rather than placed in a single ability group for the entire school day [See Footnote 221] As the fifth circuit stated, "We agree that, just as job requirements must adequately measure characteristics related to job performance in the employment context, the criteria by which students are assigned to a specific class must adequately measure the students ability in that subject." [775 F.2d at 1419] Second, the students should be reevaluated or retested regularly to determine if their initial placement was accurate and if they are progressing in these subjects. Moreover, reevaluation and retesting is important for ensuring that there is an opportunity for movement and advancement among ability groups. [see footnote 223] Third, the grouping practice itself should be evaluated to determine if it succeeds in meeting the school's stated purpose for using it. This evaluation also should include evidence demonstrating that the quality of education received by students in lower groups is sufficient. [see footnote 224] An educationally justified ability grouping practice may still violate title VI if there is an "equally effective" alternative educational practice that would result in less underrepresentation of minority students in advanced ability level groups or courses, or less overrepresentation in low level groups." [footnote 225] -Equal Educational Opportunity and Nondiscrimination for Minority Students: Federal Enforcement of Title VI in Ability Grouping practices, A Report of the US Commission on Civil Rights, September 1999, pages 62, "OCR's Enforcement Activities," subtitle "Title VI compliance Standards."

Footnotes:
221 - See, e.g, Quarles v. Oxford Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 868 F.2d 750, 754 (5th cir. 1989). OCR, Draft "Investigative Plan," page 8.

223- 775 F.2d at 1420 ("The reliability of the local defendants' grouping criteria is also supported by the evidence showing improvement in student scores and mobility between achievement groups") 868 F2.d at

754-55 (Further, expert testimony established that Oxford's students are not locked into place, or tracked, in the grouping system. Oxford's achievement grouping plan provides several opportunities for movement among achievement levels during the school year")

224- [775 F2d at 1419("The record discloses that such grouping permits more resources to be routed to lower achieving students in the form of lower pupil-teacher ratios and additional instructions materials. There is also evidence that ability grouping results in improved class manageability, student and teacher comfort and student motivation.)

225- OCR, Draft "Ability Grouping Investigative Procedures Guidance," pp. 6, 8.








----------------------------------------------------------------
Subj:     School Desegregation Plan needs to be amended
Date:     2/1/2005 3:04:53 PM Central Standard Time
From:     Socialist2001 (Doug Mann)
To:     mpls@mnforum.org

[First Draft]

The new state Desegregation Rule defines a "racially identifiable school " as "a school where the enrollment of protected students [e.g., students of color] at the school within a district is more than 20 percentage points above the enrollment of protected students in the entire school district for the grade levels served by that school." - Statement of need and reasonableness in the matter of the proposed rules relating to desegregation: Minnesota Rules, Chapter 3535.0110 subpart 6 "Racially identifiable school within a district" page 29

The Minneapolis School District currently has 23 racially identifiable schools, including 21 on the list of schools that are failing to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (per "No Child Left Behind" legislation).  There are huge differences in education-related outcomes (e.g., test scores, H.S. dropout/pushout rates, attendance rates, suspension / expulsion rates) between most racially identifiable and other schools.

The Minneapolis School District recently adopted a desegregation plan that should be reviewed and amended for the following reasons:

1) The plan does not include information that might (and undoubtedly will) show huge differences in the qualifications and experience of teachers in "racially identifiable schools" compared to other schools in the district, information which "the commissioner of education shall request and the district shall provide." [Statement of need and reasonableness in the matter of the proposed rules relating to desegregation: Minnesota Rules, Rule 3535.0130 subpart 2. E., pages 37-38.]

2) The plan proposes incentives to encourage teachers to bid into and stay at poor performing schools. That will not be an effective remedy for a high concentration of inexperienced teachers and the high teacher turnover rate at most racially identifiable schools, given the district's practice of laying off teachers that it (in actuality) plans to later rehire or replace.  In 2004 the district laid off 608 teachers, even though it projected a reduction of fewer than 200 full-time teaching positions.

An incredibly high percentage of teachers in the Minneapolis Public Schools have been on probationary status (employed with the district for less than 3 full years as a teacher). In the spring of 2004 the district had fewer than 1700 full-time teacher positions in regular and special Ed programs. Despite deep cuts in the teaching staff in recent years, 455 of the teachers laid off by the district in 2004 were on probationary status!

The district uses annual layoffs to hold down payroll costs. This practice may save money in the short-run, but its long-term costs are devastating. The district cannot develop a strong educational program at any school without a stable teaching staff.

I believe it is also necessary to distribute probationary teachers more or less evenly throughout the district. Students at some schools are being overexposed to new teachers, who generally have a steep learning curve relating to classroom (and behavior) management during their first 5 years on the job. The district could do a much better job of training (and retaining) new teachers by integrating them into all of the district's schools, not just "the tough schools." And the district's stronger programs might even be strengthened if confronted with the task of breaking-in a reasonable number of new teachers each year. Unfortunately, many teachers oppose this remedy, saying "I've paid my dues. It's always been done that way, etc."

3) The plan does not consider alternatives to tracking. Unbeknownst to many people, a large majority of the district's schools assign students as early as Kindergarten, on at least a part-time basis, to separate classrooms for instruction according to whether they are considered slow, medium, or fast learners. This is commonly done with reading instruction in the early elementary grades. Students of Color are generally over-represented in classrooms for "low-ability" learners and underrepresented in the high level classes. In my opinion, the district could put the general student population on a high-level, college-bound curriculum track and could greatly expand IB and AP classes in High School without watering down the curriculum if it also stabilizes the teaching staff at all of the district's schools.    

Education is a right, not a privilege!
A quality education for all on an equal basis!
All of the district-run schools can be good schools

-Doug Mann, King Field
www.educationright.com