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A Broader Perspective?
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004
Subj: Re: [Mpls] a broader perspective (long)
Date: 11/21/2001 8:39:06 PM Central Standard Time
In a message dated 11/21/2001 2:25:25 PM Central Standard Time, [B Robson] writes:
> "While I believe Ms. Kosnoff was properly chastised for her dismissive post regarding Mr. Atherton, I, and I daresay other list members, share her frustration with the gadfly nature of some of Mr. Atherton's (and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Mann's) education posts. Allow me a few minutes to explain why." (snip)
The board members are less frustrated by the gadfly nature of my posts than Mr. Atherton's? I think I've been insulted! Let me explain.
I agree that the MPS board members have "...the most thankless and slippery task of any politicians in the state."
I agree that "...many of the education posts on this list...almost invariably conclude that the school board is failing in its mission to improve education in Minneapolis."
It is understandable that MPS board members regard as annoying pests those who continually point out that the board is failing to "close the gap" in academic achievement between kids in high- and low-poverty neighborhoods. However, I am not the least bit sympathetic. They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.
> ...In the interest of creating a debate with a broader perspective, I'd be interested to know how the MPS stacks up versus similarly-sized school districts across the nation in terms of test scores, dropout rates, etc. Are other major urban districts doing an appreciably better job than MPS? (snip)
We can only hope that the quality of education is worse, or is getting worse faster, on average, in other big city school districts. Then we could say that the MPS is "beating the odds." Praise Carol Johnson!
> "...One [of the most intractable dilemmas facing the MPS] is the not-so-covert discrimination of underperforming school children, which too often corresponds to the endemic racism and classism that infects the community at-large as much or more than MPS officials. To put it bluntly, to what extent does the MPS risk losing its higher performing students if it doesn't engage in the ability-grouping and preferential teacher assignments that are seemingly designed to placate the parents of higher-performing students? I understand the "right," "politically correct" response, which is, for that matter, the legal response: All students should be given an equal chance to obtain a quality education. (snip)
It is understandable that the parents of high performing students want what is best for their own children, and do not want to trade places with the parents of low-performing students in the resource allocation game. However, it's not a zero sum game. When the quality of education is improved for some students at the expense of others, it weakens the entire system.
It isn't enough to preserve excellence where it exists. It is also necessary to create excellence where it does not exist.
-Doug Mann, King Field