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The Education Achievement Gap: Minnesota's Embarrassment
The Achievement Gap: Idea Generator
September, 2004

The Education Achievement Gap

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Special purpose consumer education is required
There is a need for special-purpose consumer education surrounding early reading and learning. So many ills in society are because of what is not done.

Not seeing comparable opportunity as early as 3-4th grade can cause poor children in dysfunctional settings to give up at that early stage because something was not done early in life.

Colin Powell made this point in his effort with America’s Promise. We face a future where life is more complicated, and the need for all citizens to be effective cannot be understated, knowing the roots of lost opportunity.

The same gift that stops children from falling behind is the gift needed to fight poverty, and is the same gift needed to fight racism and terrorism. Going backwards - the gift of opportunity is boiled down to the gift to stay in the learning game to find the opportunity is in large part the skill to read with comprehension, is based on the vocabulary, is based on the ability to read and write, and is based on starting kindergarten ready to read.

If we keep it this simple we can fix every community in five short years (from start of giving--to proof that our efforts are paying off).

Created on 10/06/04 by Tom Wolfgram of Maple Grove, MN

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4 rating
(1 vote)
Common group projects/buddy system
Create a buddy system between children of different ethnic/social/economic backgrounds. Develop a year-long project where they work together to achieve a common project goal - maybe with prizes/awards at the end of the school year.

The teacher would creat projects that would draw from the strengths of all group's cultural backgrounds - combine the best of all worlds so that the children learn to see the beauty of diversity as well as learn to see life from different prospectives. Start this program in the early, formative years. Continue the practice of common projects among all students, year after year.

Perhaps by the 12th grade the students will have learned from each other. With a little luck, the privileged children will learn diversity and the underprivileged kids will pick up, from the privileged kids, those things they aren't taught at home (value of education, goal-orientation, self-esteem, self-pride). Hopefully, the good stuff will rub off on all of them.

Created on 09/27/04 by Susan Wrayge of Mpls, MN

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4 rating
(4 votes)
Level the playing field from early childhood on up
Children that exhibit the most success in school have parents with higher education levels, and environments that are rich with opportunities to learn.

EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS that help children get a good start-safe, nurturing, offering environments ripe for learning are a first step.

AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS, Boys & Girls Clubs, Communities in Schools, and Kitchen Table (same kids, same adult every day after school)style homework workgroups in Schools, etc. help to level the playing field. When students without books and computers at home try to compete with children with a computer in every room, there are bound to be differences in ability to assimilate information as efficiently.

Another idea is to STUDY HOW WE TEST SUCCESS. SAT scores have long shown racial gaps, but current testing still favors children already succeeding. Gives greater advantage to those who test well-ignores differences in assimilation of information for racially diverse and children w/special needs.

Created on 09/27/04 by Jane Barlow of Chapel Hill, NC

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A heretical idea...
I grew up in the DC Public School System, which provides no student transportation. Some schools have an arrangement with the DC Metro System so that regular buses pick kids up at schools and deliver them to transit hubs or subway stations, but no one gets door-to-door service.

While I certainly don't hold the DC school system up as a model for anything else, I'm constantly amazed at the resources that go into getting students to school in Minnesota. It's a service that people have come to rely on. But wouldn't you rather see resources spent on actual education and programs for kids rather than just getting them from point A to point B?

Maybe there should be a greater emphasis on attending neighborhood schools -- and getting yourself there.

Created on 09/23/04 by Liza Pryor of St Paul, MN

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4 rating
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Classes or lessons on chess and thinking games
Chess is objective and positively correlated with academic success.

There is no cultural bias or significant expense. Poor children can do well at chess and the objectivity of the game can be surprising to stereotypes and misconceptions. The interactive nature of the game helps to keep motivational interest and the learning experience is sensorimotor.

Other thinking games such as Go or Whist (Bridge like but without the detailed adult-oriented rules) also make sense -- and just as for physical sports, variety is appealing and adds to fairness. Objectivity and motivation are key factors.

The Minnesota School Chess Association conducts tournaments and promotes chess clubs in schools. Classes and lessons could help a broader range of students, and the inclusion of other games could add to fairness (chess requires strong concentration and logic, and other games can be more flexible).

Created on 09/23/04 by Erik Knutson of Roseville, MN

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Retrieve the fourth 'R'
Reading, 'Riting. 'Rithmetic...'Rating?
Oration, was our ancestors' way of educating before the written word. While infants our parents fought for time to read to us. We find it even harder to read to our children.

Behold, TV! Sound draws them in, visual overload transfixes. Sound becomes an attention getter, only, just like infants. Education has become visual. The visual art of reading isn't as stimulating as TV. We've downplayed the importance of listening after our first year of life.

Many individuals do not adapt well to this limited communication. We have become hearing impaired. Have you ever listened to a book being read by an accomplished storyteller while following along? Or listened to an audiobook while doing routine work? Listen to a novel, instead of hard rock? Cheap wireless headphones and a remote tape player for grade school & those who are learning impaired to start.

That's the way to retrieve the fourth "R", and level the field while raising the bar. Add back the way we were designed to learn. The magic bullet we've 'looked' for. Bullets move too fast for our eyes, but not our ears. Children should be hearing, as well as seeing!

Created on 09/22/04 by Bruce Wakefield of Inver Grv. Hgts., MN

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3.5 rating
(7 votes)
Don't start with an incorrect assumption
The first step to any solution is an honest assessment of a problem. The title “Minnesota’s Embarrassment” seems to carry an implication that it is the schools’ or the state’s fault. Why start with an assumption (especially an incorrect one)? Individual and family decisions are the key to academic success or failure. The “education” problem is: underage parenthood, single parenthood, poor choices relating to drugs, studying, “culture” and “attitude.”

According to your statistics “Minnesota’s gap is particularly wide,” partly due to the nation-leading high achievement of our white students. Are we embarrassed by our success? We’re still above average nationwide even for minority students (22nd, per your stats). What are we embarrassed about? I grew up in the most diverse city in the world. I saw immigrants overcome disadvantages, and others utterly reject personal responsibility. Minnesota is the most politically correct place I have lived. As liberals, our only crime is blaming ourselves instead of being honest about the problem.

Created on 09/21/04 by Nick Gardner of St Paul, MN

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Connect every home with the University of Minnesota
For over 100 years our University of Minnesota and its many excellent teachers, researchers, and Extension professionals have studied families, taught students of all ages, researched what "results" in public education are -- and can be -- and concerned itself with all aspects of living that affect quality of life.

The multiple-strategy "answers" to closing the achievement gap are already known within its many colleges and Extension Service -- especially 4-H Youth Development. I propose that we ask the U of M what it would take to package and gift this research-based knowledge in digestible, understandable amounts out into the hands of every parent, grandparent, day care provider, teacher, neighbor, clergy, and citizen.

Let's all go to school putting knowledge to work for the kids right in our own lives. Put the best minds in the state to work on how to inspire us all to put Minnesota kids first. Every single one of them. Then I believe that gap will close, and close fast.

Created on 09/21/04 by Wendy Wustenberg of Farmington, MN

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Reward behavior that succeeds
The national government should offer rewards to all students who succeed academically. How? Make college costs free or reduced for students who achieve some designated scores on achievement tests. No need to invent one. The majority of students already take the ACT.

Offer rewards to younger students as well. Ribbons, medals, bumper stickers and similar items are successful in many districts already.

As things are, students can see rewards available for sports in the form of scholarships, tributes, and praise. Make academic success as important as sports success. I believe this refocusing will improve student behavior in the upper grades as well because schools and families will be encouraging students to succeed.

Created on 09/20/04 by Patricia Hagerty of Champlin, MN

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Provide more life experience
Most of the students that I have worked with suffer from lack of life experience (a.k.a. enrichment). Pencil, paper or electronic activities cannot substitute for interaction with the real world. The gap exists largely because of this lack.

Children learn the way that plants grow or that fish swim. It is in their nature. The more enriched linguistic, artistic, scientific, and creative the environment the higher-quality learning will take place. Most middle-class and wealthy parents know this and augment their children's learning through travel, activities or special classes. Kids "in the gap" get remediation and homework help or even test prep classes. I have seen firsthand what happens when you enrich the learning of these students. They are as capable as any other group of kids.

The gap has been created by thinking that tests provide the whole picture of a school or community's educational health. Tests cost money and help to sort students. Learning comes through experiences.

Created on 09/20/04 by Mark Hendrix of St, Paul, MN

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