Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Mann for School Board     |     home
                                                  
The Coleman Report (U of W)
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
Another Option for Minneapolis School Board Voters (2004 General Election)
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004

The Coleman Report
School funding & The Coleman Report

Why didn't Audrey Johnson tell us anything about "...the research [which] shows that student achievement can be accurately measured as follows: 49% attributed to parent involvement, about 42% teacher quality, and about 8% to
class size?"

To which study is Ms. Johnson referring? It must be an old study because one of the cited references is a book published in 1977. One of the most frequently cited studies about the influence of schools and a students home life on academic achievement was a 1966 study by James Coleman and others entitled "Equality of Educational Opportunity." According to Coleman et. al:

"Schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school [The Manufactured Crisis, 1995, Berliner and Biddle, page 71]"

That's the conclusion upon which the Minneapolis School District bases its policies. That's why Minneapolis School District spokespersons and cheerleaders say that the schools are doing a pretty good job. It is to be expected that a majority of students don't pass the Minnesota Basic Standards Test on their first try, and only 37% graduate on time. Smart kids will do well in any school. It just happens that smart kids are heavily concentrated in certain community schools that serve low-poverty neighborhoods, and less concentrated in others, or so the argument goes.

The conclusions of the original Coleman Report about the influence of a student's background on academic achievement are generally accepted by policy-makers. It just happens to support the agenda of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal school reform movements.

However, six years after the original Coleman Report was issued, Coleman published reanalyzes of its data using "regression" procedures. (A "regression" procedure is a one-step analysis that estimates the net effect
of each variable while controlling for the effects of the other variables.) Based on the reanalyzes, Coleman concluded that the original report gave an inflated estimate of the influence of home background due to unexamined
effects of school characteristics. Coleman's later work has been swept under the rug [ibid Berliner and Biddle, p 73].

The 1966 Coleman Report in its Historical Context
The 1966 Coleman report was cited by school districts around the country as evidence that integrating black kids into white schools would have little or no effect on student achievement. Coleman was in high demand as an expert witness for the school districts.

It is also important to note that the 1966 Coleman report explained differences in academic achievement between whites and blacks as a byproduct of a culture of poverty. This culture of poverty supposedly had a greater influence on blacks because of a higher concentration of poverty among blacks.
...
Mr. Mann's Statement -- A Nation at Risk
The work of David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle that I cite so frequently is The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the attack on America's Public Schools, 1995. The Manufactured Crisis is about what is arguably the mother of
all disinformation campaigns that was launched in 1983 with a report entitled "A Nation at Risk." A blue ribbon panel of K-12 education experts selected by the Reagan-Bush administration produced the report.
http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/perseus-cgi-bin/display/0-201-44196-9
>MR. MANN'S STATEMENTS
>There are so many statements of interpretation offered as
>fact it is difficult to address them all. I will simply say
>that I honestly appreciate Mr. Mann's advocacy for kids who
>are not doing well in Minneapolis and I am often
>disappointed that he makes the case using data so badly.
>
> There are little things, like his mischaracterization of A
> Nation at Risk:
>
> <<A Nation at Risk" falsely claimed that the academic
> achievement gap was being closed at the expense of the high achievers.>>
>
> The report said nothing of the kind. It can be read at:
>
> http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/
>
I will show that in its opening paragraphs *A Nation at Risk* argues that the academic achievement gap was being closed at the expense of high achieving students.

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world ... the educational foundations of our
society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments." -- A Nation at Risk, paragraph 1 "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement
made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational
disarmament." -- A Nation at Risk, paragraph 2

A claim that the academic achievement gap was being closed at the expense of the high achievers is made in the following contentions:

"...the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity..." and "...We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible...."

What is meant by "a rising tide of mediocrity" was the alleged dumbing down of the average high school graduate during the 1970s. This *unfounded* claim was later contradicted by a study commissioned and suppressed by
the administration of George Herbert Walker "the education president" Bush, known as The Sandia Report. [See "Bush's Education Agenda"]

According to Paul Copperman, (cited in A Nation at Risk), "Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

"It is important, of course, to recognize that the *average citizen* today is better educated and more knowledgeable than the average citizen of a generation ago... Nevertheless, the average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well-educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller proportion of our population completed high school and college. The negative impact of this fact likewise cannot be overstated." -- A Nation at Risk

The K-12 educational policy implemented to meet the Sputnik challenge included the promotion of curriculum differentiation through ability-grouping and its introduction into elementary school classrooms. Funding for
Academically Gifted and Talented programs were greatly expanded, especially in the Deep South. The introduction of a gifted program puts pressure on teachers to ability-group their students.

It was argued that the ability grouping model is more cost-effective than the one-track academic / college-preparatory model in supplying brainpower to colleges (the social efficacy argument, which resonated with business
groups like the Chamber of Commerce). Ability-grouping was also supported by white supremacists as a way to keep blacks in their place.
Thanks in large part to the Civil Right movement, a major shift in K-12 policy occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Schools districts were forced to desegregate by integrating black students into white schools. New federal legislation and court decisions helped advocates of special needs childrento force school districts to 'mainstream' special needs students. The one-track academic model also made a comeback in many elementary schools.

When school boards were faced with lawsuits to compel them to desegregate, many hired James Coleman or cited a 1966 study done by Coleman and others entitled Equality of Educational Opportunity, also well know as "the Coleman Report." The 1966 Coleman report was, and still is one of the most frequently cited studies about the influence of schools and a students home life on academic achievement. According to Coleman et. al.,

"Schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school [The Manufactured Crisis, 1995, Berliner and Biddle, page 71]"

Berliner and Biddle remarked that,
"Simply put then, the Coleman Report concluded that schools have no important effects on children, while family and neighborhood do. The most important predictor of academic success for children seems to be the choice they made of their parents at birth." [The Manufactured Crisis, page 71]

-Doug Mann

These comments are taken from on on-line dialogue taking place prior to a school board election in Minneapolis, Minnesota and can be found here in three parts (1, 2, 3).