New coalition targets achievement gap in schools

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 28, 2012 - 9:41 PM

Generation Next will focus on research-based strategies to close racial and economic achievement gaps in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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jaynedrakeNov. 28, 1210:28 PM

I suggest that the best practices existed in the 1950's and before(I don't know anyone from that era, of any color, that can't read and do basic math). Then, the applecart was tipped over in the mid to late 60's. Combine those best practices with getting the students to school every day and then making them behave so that they can be taught.

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educate79Nov. 28, 1211:07 PM

I cannot tell you how many times that the "good ole days" are brought up in these educational stories - either as editorial anecdotes by the journalist or as sidebars by commentators. The 1950s....that great era of red lining by banks to keeps 'those people' out of wealthy urban neighborhoods and certainly out of the suburbs because they wouldn't give 'those people' a mortgage? That era? Or the era when college was accessible, whether through private wealth or gov't loans, only to the white people? Or that era where no real data was collected or scrutinized by municipalities, counties, states or the federal gov't that really showed a very frank and stark reality of the achievement disparities of the educational system. Instead, could it be that in Minnesota where nearly 95% of all public school teachers are white (female), yet 1/2 the school age population is male, and in the urban centers over 80% of the school age population is of color, that there is an ignorance on the part of the teacher, yes the teacher, for what the lives of the students really look like outside the classroom? I am a white man. And as a white man who is a very successful teacher in urban schools, I have always found myself to be the best teacher when I stopped viewing the world through my eyes, truly, and pushed myself to view it through the eyes of my students - not to dumb things down or to pander, but, instead, to develop empathy for their lives, their stories, their struggles, and then to find deep and meaningful ways to bring their stories into the learning that we do, into the reflections they write, to inject rigor by pushing them to think critically and comparatively about their own personal narratives vis-a-vis the stories they read in my class - to create what some teachers call windows and mirrors in my pedagogy.

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educate79Nov. 28, 1211:12 PM

Great teaching is about relationships. If you have them with your students, the teaching will take place. If you don't have them, then enter the classroom at your own peril. How many white teachers actually have friends of color? How many of us Minnesotans have friends who live in north Minneapolis? East Saint Paul? Maplewood? How many of us actually fraternize with people of color outside the work place regularly, socially, as friends? If we do not reach across the color lines to have a beer, talk about our kids and catch up about the Vikes and the Twins, how could we possibly expect our students to want to learn from us? We've shown them through absence in the social fabric of their community that we are not invested in their lives. Several years ago I worked for a year at Southwest High School in Mpls. This is the number 1 public high school in MN. It is an awesome place - truly awesome. However, I saw on several occasions the following situation unfold: a small group of white students dressed like Abercrombie and Fitch models walking down the hallway during class time unmolested by faculty and staff, followed by a black male student walking alone only to be barked at "WHERE IS YOUR PASS?!" I would ask myself, "Seriously? Did that just happen (((again) and again) and again?!) ...Until a teacher sees the student for the person that s/he is, MN will continue to rank at the bottom of the list.

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comment229Nov. 29, 12 5:15 AM

There is only one problem with great teaching and relationships. That relationship must exist with 100% of the class in front of you. In the schools we are talking about for the most part, that will never happen, no matter what Michelle Rhee and Joe Nathan will tell you. I suspect jaynedrake is a teacher and has a whole lot of insight into this. This is not a school problem, this is a social problem and we have done everything in the world to skirt that issue. Instead of talking to Joe Nathan, who works in an office all day, why don't you go talk to several teachers for their opinions, and when you have had an earful there, don't stop, keep going and get a group of under-performing students into a class room, close the door, and let them tell you all about it. I will guarantee you that whatever you are proposing, again, for a lot of money to sponsor a gimmick, will seem almost stupid at that point in time. But hey, you just keep on guessing what the problems are in education in America, and walking away from them and having lunch with Joe Nathan. At least you can say you tried. Less than two years from now, NCLB has run its course, and what results have we seen in our schools; minimal at BEST. The best thing about NCLB is its name. After that it is a bureaucratic gimmick that failed along with all the rest, and every veteran teacher of 30 years or more, will tell you every one of those gimmicks. It's time to get to the real problems in education; ask a teacher, ask a student, and if you really want, go to the source. You know those struggling students I want you to question; get their addresses, and go interview their parents. And if you are a real thrill seeker, go unannounced.

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fwallenNov. 29, 12 5:54 AM

Teachers are not the problem. Much of the "research" is flawed in the sense that it is a snapshot of a situation, but that's all. Comparing parochial schools to public schools denies reality. Public schools are there for everyone. It's not research but it's safe to assume parents of parochial students are engaged in their children's lives. Public school parents may or my not. Typically dysfunctional kids have dysfunctional parents or parent. Schools can not repair in 5 or 6 hours in 170 days what has been sown in 19 hours x 365 days. Joe Nathan is a good man, if he researched the family situations of the poor performing kids he will find higher percentages of absent parents, drug problems, and incarcerations. Those kids deserve a better future.

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jflynch1Nov. 29, 12 6:32 AM

The achievement gap is not racial- it is based on having a single parent household.

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educate79Nov. 29, 12 6:54 AM

The achievement gap is absolutely racial.

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davehougNov. 29, 12 7:00 AM

SOOOOO what is the achievement gap for a black high school teacher's children???? I doubt it is any different than a white teacher of the same subject. IF blacks taught blacks better the stats would show.

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EleanoreNov. 29, 12 7:09 AM

"racial achievement gaps" - Please. Skin color in and of itself has no role whatsoever in intelligence or ability to learn. Please end this institutional racism and focus the acheivement gap where it belongs, economics and parenting (social economics). The group is doing our system harm by maintaining the racism we see espoused in this story.

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jackpine091Nov. 29, 12 7:23 AM

Here we go again!

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