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Board Accountability Matters
Subj:      [Mpls] School Board Accountability matters
Date:     11/10/2001 12:51:26 AM Central Standard Time

I agree.  Money matters.  So does board accountability.  It seems to me that
the Minneapolis Public School district has enough money to do a pretty good
job of educating our kids.  As I noted before, Special School District #1 is
among the least revenue challenged school districts in the state of

[I agree,] the school [district] should have more money to spend on teachers.  The
Minneapolis Public schools could [also] spend more money on teachers than it does.  
A lot of money has been misappropriated.  For example, the district spent
money on teachers aids and compensatory programs at high poverty schools,
instead hiring teachers to reduce class sizes.  Research shows that spending
money on teachers gives you better results.  

I have proposed measures to reduce the high concentration of inexperienced
teachers in community schools that serve poor neighborhoods. Spreading around
the least experienced teachers would benefit the worst schools the most, but
it wouldn't necessarily lead to a deterioration in the quality of education
in the better schools.  It's not a zero sum game.  If you do a better job of
training and retaining teachers, the whole system benefits.

Why do I speak out?  

I believe that my son is entitled to a quality public education on the same
basis as everyone else.  However, he was designated as a low-ability learner
and exposed to a dumbed down curriculum at the beginning of grade one (Fall
1997).  I did a research paper on ability-grouping in the Spring of 1995.  I
never liked ability-grouping, but before my own son was identified as a
low-ability learner, and educated accordingly,  I didn't realize how much
damage it can do to a child.  When I discovered what was going on, I had to
speak out.  

Advocates of the ability-grouping model say it merely accommodates
differences in academic ability between children, that it does not increase
disparities in educational outcomes between children.  Our children spend 30
hours per week in a meritocracy where they get the education they deserve.  I
My son attended the Minneapolis Public Schools until last year, near the
beginning of the 4th grade. While he attended a public school in Minneapolis
I was extremely involved with his education, much more than any parent should
have to be.  I had to spend a lot of time on lesson planning and direct
instruction at home. I did some direct observation in the classroom to
identify problems, and drafted individualized educational plans, which I
reviewed with the teachers, to address those problems.

My wife and I looked for a good school within the system.  Barton Open school
is good.  Its test scores have been among the highest in the district.  It's
an "untracking school."  They don't ability-group.  It is in high demand.  We
also tried to get our son into a better community school than the one he was
attending.  We asked for an administrative transfer to Burroughs, which was
under-enrolled.  That was not an option, according to one of the school
district's attorneys, and Carol Johnson. I considered home-schooling.  My
wife and I did a lot of private school shopping.  

My son now attends a catholic school that has a fairly coherent curriculum
and doesn't ability group.  Most of the kids there are poor, most are
nonwhite.  It's not a great school, but its OK.  I would prefer to have my
son enrolled in a cost-free public school, but just about any school in the
Minneapolis Public School district would be a bad choice.

-Doug Mann, King Field

Doug Mann for School Board web site: