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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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Not another program! Start pulling in the same direction.
Minnesota’s achievement gap is not going to be solved by one more quick-fix program – it is going to take intense collaboration among educators, lawmakers, families and community groups around a comprehensive solution.

Countless education initiatives have been independently sponsored by businesses, foundations, districts and government entities with little improvement in minority achievement. Each group focuses on their own area of expertise. For example, teachers unions advocate better teacher salaries and smaller class size; legislators focus on standards and funding formulas; superintendents urge easing mandates and red tape. These fragmented efforts are pulling in different directions, causing schools more pain than relief.

Schools are exhausted by the burden of program overload, skeptical of the latest flavor-of-the-month initiative, and deflated by the ever-tightening handcuffs of “the system”. Minnesota’s achievement gap may not be caused by these fragmented efforts but it likely persists because of it.

We need to pull together, focus on a comprehensive, workable solution for all Minnesota students and ease the burden of 1000 initiatives.

Created on 09/27/04 by Susan Wollan Fan of Minneapolis, MN

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Make sure children have role models
Everyone fundamentally depends on love to support them through life. I believe that a child might be economically disadvantaged but still be able to achieve academic excellence if they have a stable, loving role model in their life.

Each child should be professionally evaluated to find out if they have someone who they truly feel loves them unconditionally and challenges them to want to learn. Children without such support should be matched with long-term mentors who have been selected based on high standards.

These mentors could be high school students who by serving as a mentor for four years to a child lacking a good role model would be given a full scholorship to college. I also believe that all children not only need immunizations as a requirement to attend school but also need a complete eye exam and hearing exam as well. 80% of learning is through vision and economically challenged parents might not be able to afford these exams to discover these health barriers to learning.

Created on 10/04/04 by Madelaine Haddican of Roseville, MN

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Give the gift of early reading skills
The truth: Without the gift of early reading skills, all children are behind before they even start kindergarten.

The gift: Only an individual gift delivers early reading skills at age three, four and five. This is the key to opportunity. It is society’s best (effective and lowest cost) approach to preparing the bottom half of the bottom half (poorest of the poor) to want the opportunities, choices and engagement.

The focus: When 100% of the children start kindergarten ready to read English, the urban school has the resources to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement of No Child Left Behind.

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

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Multidimentional problem needs multidimentional solution
There are many good ideas!

It all starts in educating our leaders and decision-makers as well as the public of how crucial it is to put our resources into the education (formal and informal) of everyone in society. Thanks to MPR for getting the conversation started!

We must change selfish and short-sighted attitudes such as:

1. "I don't have any kids. Why should I support our (public or private) schools?"

2. "My kids are in private schools. Why should I have to pay for what my family doesn't use?"

3. "If you are poor or underpriviledged, it's your fault, not mine."

4. "Get married! Raise your kids right--Even though I don't give a hoot what happens to you."

5. "Jesus said, 'the poor you will always be with you' so I should I go against what Jesus says?"

What should we say to these people? How do we get them to see that someone may be taking care of them in a nursing home, paying taxes, FICA, etc.?

Created on 10/07/04 by Margaret Catambay of Minneapolis, MN

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Get involved!
A child needs to be supported by the community and by that meaning teachers, fellow students, family and the community in which they live. The key to success is communication and follow through.

The teachers will excel if offered the correct environment. They also need to be trained to teach, not the particular subject area, but also the environment in which one teaches.

Knowing the culture of the school and the community will help the teacher better address the needs of the students.

Students will rise to the level of expectation and teachers need to raise their standards for all students. Sometimes the barriers to student learning are not in the educational process but the environmental factors, i.e. hunger, transportation, money for school supplies etc. The teacher needs to be trained about the culture of the student.

The other issue is how the test is written. The test is written for the mainstream population so test considerations should be given for language differences.

Created on 09/20/04 by Lisa Tappe-Plummer of Prior Lake, MN

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It's all of the above, but then it's not.
The issue is so complex that every opinion has truth and every idea looks like THE ONE. Unfortunately, they are all predicated upon what we overlook most--the condition of the student.

Are the students truly able to take advantage? Do they really believe it will make a difference? When we answer no, income is offered as an explanation. However, offering this offers little for intervention.

If all the poor families were given money to be non-poor, the gap would remain. Unless we increase social network quality. That is why Black middle-class students are more likely to do better in school. They are more likely exposed to those who: believe success is possible, are encouraged intellectually, and have ties to models.

The families are better able to access resources to resolve a learning or behavioral problem, a lack of focus, or single-parent stressors. A reading program would be enhanced if Joe’s peers read, a college friend suggested books, and an engineer he knew said,"I had to read."

Created on 09/24/04 by Na'im Madyun of Saint Paul, MN

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Businesses need to invest in society!
Top corporations should be setting up, and paying for educational centers in impoverished areas. Free colleges should be created and funded by these businesses in every poverty stricken area in America! Then, these businesses should be required to hire the students when they graduate.

How could they afford all this? Please, these businesses are making billions of dollars A YEAR, much of it is tax-free! It would take time, but these people have proven that they are innovative, fiscally savvy, and capable of making something out of nothing.

I work for a Minnesota company that gives 10% back to the community every year! It is a company that started in a shed by two women with a good idea eight years ago, and is now a multi-million dollar company! They have built a Habitat House, paid a full-time worker to volunteer at local non-profits that need people's time as much as money, and bought land to preserve it. This company is making a huge difference. Why aren't more?

Created on 10/08/04 by Amy Amsbaugh of Zumbrota, MN

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Don't be isolationist....
As a society we have become compartmentalized. In the fifties everybody knew their neighbor, and people communicated more in general. In these whitewater times it is difficult for children to understand the communication styles of other people because much of what they learn is from at home--good and bad.

The only way to sharpen your claws as far as communication and social skills is to use them and use them often. Community-based cognitive behavioral interventions may help kids learn to communicate and problem solve more effectively.

Created on 10/11/04 by Mat Olson of Duluth, MN

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Perspectives from a Minority Forum on Education
The Policy Roundtable (MN) hosted a forum on minority perspectives on educational issues. Here are some core recommendations:

- While minorities are supportive of the recent legislation bringing more accountability in K-12 education, they also insist that the child should be the center of all education reforms and that testing should not take the place of the holistic development of the child.

- There needs to be more systematic data collected on classroom size, in-school vs. out-of-school suspension, textbook availability and usage, and parental involvement. This information needs to be linked to individual student performance.

- We need to better coordinate the training of teachers with the needs of the schools to ensure that our new teachers have both high academic standards as well as cultural competency.

- Finally, there should be adequate resources allocated to the proper implementation of K-12 educational reforms.

Created on 10/12/04 by Bruce Corrie of Saint Paul, MN

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How society must help close the gap--part 1
• Institutionalized racism is not only present in schools, but it is widespread in our society. Closing the achievement gap in schools with students of color who have been historically underserved and white students requires society working to close the gap in family incomes, home ownership, health care, criminal justice, etc.

African American, Latino and Native American youth and families have survived centuries of oppression in relation to schooling and beyond, and yet there still is not equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream. My two white children started their lives with an advantage having two parents who love each other, are employed with middle class income, are educated with college degrees, and have access to good health care and housing.

Created on 10/14/04 by Paul Spies of Minneapolis, MN

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