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Platform (How to fix the school system)
* Align evaluation criteria with the goal of "Closing the Gap"
The stated goal of the district's "Community School Plan," which segregates students by class and race, is to close the academic achievement gap between poor and middle class students, and between white and non-white students. The Minneapolis Board of Education claims to be making progress, yet the achievement gap has been getting bigger, not smaller.
* Focus on Institutional Factors
A huge part of the difference between Community Schools in terms of educational outcomes can be explained by an over-representation of inexperienced teachers at the Community Schools that serve poor, predominantly non-white neighborhoods. According to the district's own research, about 40% of the variability in scores on academic achievement tests can be attributed to teacher efficacy, which is measured primarily as years of current teaching experience.
* Adopt Best Practices and a more coherent curriculum
Many K-12 students are 'left back' because of the curriculum adopted by the district. For example, at the school board meeting on 29 September 1999, a teacher explained that many students in regular programs at Henry High School needed direct instruction in phonics in order to pass the reading section of the Minnesota Basic Standards Test, an 8th grade reading test that students must pass in order to get a high school diploma.
According to a newspaper article under the heading "Less than a third of 4th-graders can read well," it is noted "Numerous government-sponsored studies over the last decade have found that explicit instruction in sound-letter relationships and phonics practice, combined with exposure to rich literature, produce the best results (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 7 April 2001 )." However, the district is sticking with the look-say approach to reading instruction for K-4 students. An example of the "rich literature" that children are exposed to with the look-say approach is the Dick and Jane picture book series (See spot. See spot run. Run spot run).
* Progressively Eliminate 'Low-Ability' Groupings & Curriculum Tracks
There is a mountain of evidence that shows 'ability-grouping' and a process of curriculum differentiation as practiced in the Minneapolis Public Schools reinforces and increases disparities in academic achievement between students. For example, in 1972 a Congressional committee found that,
"Once students were placed in low ability groups, they were likely to be there for the duration of their school carrears. The Committee determined that educational inequality was the result of lower teacher expectations, limited curriculum, and negative self-concepts that students developed as a result of being placed in low ability groups [from a report on ability grouping practices by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, published in September 1999, page 2. Call (202) 376-8110 for a free copy]."
* Extend Full Appeal Rights to Non-Tenured Teachers
Under Minnesota's Teacher Tenure Act, a teacher is non-tenured during the first three years of employment with a school district. A school district must show "good cause" to fire any teacher. However, if fired at the end of the school year, a non-tenured teacher does not have the right to appeal the firing.
Non-tenured teachers have a well-founded fear of losing their jobs, and maybe their teaching licenses, if they try to defend their contract rights at schools where most teachers do not have tenure rights. For example, teachers are involuntarily reassigned in violation of the union contract (Bidding procedures and rules on excising teachers are disregarded). These assignment changes are often unnecessary and have a negative effect on the professional development of teachers and on the quality of instruction for students. Schools that are run like banana republics can't attract and retain competent teachers.
* Desegregate Inexperienced Teachers
The high concentration of inexperienced teachers in Community Schools that serve poor neighborhoods should be addressed by phasing in more temporary (up to three years) teacher-in-training positions at schools where the teaching staff has the highest minimum levels of experience, better working conditions for teachers at schools with high concentrations of inexperienced teachers (such as lower class sizes, instead of higher class sizes), modification of job bidding rules (without circumventing seniority rights).
* Redraw School Attendance Boundaries to Desegregate Students
The district has drawn attendance boundaries in such a way as to greatly reduce the level of racial integration at most schools. Advocates of racially-segregated schools (including school board members) are correct in saying that black students do not need to sit next to white students in order to learn. The problem is that most black students are assigned to inferior schools. A desegregation plan would force the school district to do more to equalize educational facilities.