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Questions about Accountability
Subj:      Re: [Mpls] questions re school accountability
Date:     11/10/2001 4:00:52 PM Central Standard Time

I will respond here to two related points raised by Dennis Schapiro:

In a message dated 11/10/2001 8:53:23 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> 2. As a person in line to take a seat on the board, I noted this statement:
>  <<A lot of money has been misappropriated.>>
>  Foolishly appropriated is an issue for voters. Misappropriated is an
>  issue for the attorney general. There was a major problem with special
>  education funding a few years ago. Is that the reference here, or is
>  there something that is no going on? Documentation is important. This
>  seems to be a serious legal allegation.

What did I say:

"You say the school should have more money to spend on teachers.  The
Minneapolis Public schools could 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 [School Board Accountability
Matters, 9 November 2001]."

The board promised to reduce class sizes.  The board went to the voters on
three occasions to ask for money to reduce class sizes. That was the promise
of the "better schools referendum."  However, a lot of that money was not
spent on class size reduction.   

The board gave its approval to student assignment plans that resulted in an
increase in class sizes at schools on the North Side during a period from
1995 to 1999.  This was foreseen by the district's department of Research,
Evaluation and Assessment. These student assignment plans, and increased
classroom sizes on the North Side, were authorized for the sake of putting
the community school plan on a fast track.  
As the saying goes, a little knowledge can be dangerous.  At the very least,
Mr. Schapiro should have quoted more than one sentence from my e-mail, and
consulted a dictionary before accusing me of making "what seems to be a
serious legal allegation."  

According to Webster, misappropriate means "put to a wrong or dishonest use."
[The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary]

According to Black's Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition, "Misappropriation"

"The act of misappropriating or turning to a wrong purpose; wrong
appropriation; a term which does not necessarily mean peculation
[embezzlement of funds], although it may mean that.  Bannon v. Knauss, 57
Ohio app. 288, 13 N.E. 2d 733, 735"

"This is not a technical term of law, but it is sometimes applied to the
misdemeanor which is committed by a banker, factor, trustee, etc., who
fraudulently deals with money, goods, securities, etc., intrusted to him, or
by a director or public officer of a corporation or company who fraudulently
misapplies any of its property. Steph.Crim.Dig. 257 et seq.; Sweet;
Winchester v. Howard, 136 Cal. 432, 64 P. 692, 89 Am.St.Rep. 153 [end of
entry for the term 'Misappropriation'  from Blacks Law]."

Dennis Schapiro goes on:

>  3.
>  Mr. Mann frequently cites research that, in my experience, is less
>  definitive than he implies. Again, I'm open to other info, but what
>  research is he citing to support this:
>  <<Research shows that spending money on teachers gives you better

A frequently cited piece of research about the effects of class size is a
study paid for by the Tennessee Legislature called Project STAR
(Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio).  That particular study has been cited at
meetings of the Minneapolis Board of Education by directors of the
Minneapolis Board of Education during discussions about the better schools
referendum.  It is widely regarded as THE definitive study of the effects of
class size reduction.

On this issue, Michael Atherton writes:
"I've argued for sometime that lowering class size has little effect (for the
cost) on student achievement...NOW there's a review article in a respected
national science magazine which supports my position."

If you add the caveat, "for the cost," one may argue that lowering class size
has little effect.  However, it's been at least 5 years since I've heard
anyone argue that class size doesn't make a difference, without
qualifications. I don't assume that MA is arguing in favor of going back to
large class sizes. However, to say that lowering class size has little effect
for the cost implies that it's not a good investment.  

If MA's point is that class size reduction as a strategy to boost student
performance is overrated, I agree with it.  There are other ways to boost
student performance that would produce a bigger bang for the buck or even
save the district some money.  For example, the district might consider
phasing out the use of ability-grouping from the bottom up, which would involve
adopting a more coherent, and enriched, curriculum for all children.  

A fairly authoritative study on the effects of ability-grouping was done by
Jeannie Oakes, with financial support from the Rand Corporation.  Oakes
reports on this research in her book "Keeping Track: How Schools Structure
Inequality," which was published in 1985.

Dennis Schapiro goes on:
>  And because it is and has been a far more attainable goal to hire aides
>  and assistants of the racial and ethnic groups of MPS students, would he
>  hew to that position should it lead to a professional staff that is less
>  reflective of our students' racial and ethnic background? (Sorry, "we
>  can do both" is acceptable in great policy debates, but doesn't wash for
>  what happens next week.)

Yes, I hew to that position.  Many white teachers are willing and able to
provide effective instruction to all of their students, but are presented
with an enormous challenge when confronted with the task of teaching in just
about any public school in Minneapolis.  

It is not enough for a teacher to be competent and well intentioned, although
it certainly helps.  Teachers are part of a team.  The board makes a lot of
decisions that either help, or hinder the efforts of teachers to provide
effective instruction to all of their students.

On the other hand, if a teacher is convinced that low-income children are
low-ability children, it is likely that the low-income children in his or her
classroom will meet those expectations.  A teacher's attitude is far more
important than his or her skin color.  

The district's lack of progress in recruiting and retaining teachers of color
may have something to do with the attitude that flows from the belief that
low-income children are low-ability children, and of course, the racial
profiling that goes with it.

Doug Mann, King Field

Doug Mann for School Board web site:
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