The percentage of minorities in Minnesota has doubled since 1990. But
minority students lag white students on a number of measures, including
performance on statewide assessment tests.
Today, September 20, 2004, Minnesota Public Radio kicks off a month long
focus on the achievement disparities in Minnesota's public education system
with a groundbreaking online collaboration.
Be part of the project, and help promote practical ways to close the
achievement gap by participating in:
Fix The Gap: The Idea Generator
The authors of the best results from this collaboration will be invited to
discuss their proposals during a town hall meeting on the evening of October
18, at the Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul. The event will be moderated by
Midmorning Host Kerri Miller, and will be recorded for broadcast during the
9 a.m. hour of Midmorning Friday, October 22.
Just go to mpr.org/disparity to submit your ideas.
A troubling disparity
By Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota students are traditionally among the nation's top performers on
key standardized tests. Unfortunately, the statewide averages mask an
embarrassing reality. Students of color consistently score far below their
This disparity in academic performance between groups of students is known
as the achievement gap.
It's a national problem. But Minnesota's gap is particularly wide.
A recent report from the Education Trust, Inc., highlighted the issue.
Minnesota eighth graders ranked first in the nation in math on the 2003
National Assessment for Educational Progress. The average score among the
state's white students (291) topped the list. The average score for African
American students in Minnesota (251) ranked 22nd among the 50 states. Only
Wisconsin had a wider gap between white and black scores.
The low test scores are a point of frustration to some; a source of anger
for others. The Rev. Randolph Staten of the Minnesota Coalition of Black
Churches says state officials have failed to adequately address the
"We wonder why it is with so many of our children being destroyed we have
not declared an emergency in the state of Minnesota," Staten said.
Achievement gaps are often attributed to income level and home environment.
Low-income families often have few educational resources at home. Recent
immigrants don't always have the English language skills needed to keep pace
in school. Some experts also point to low classroom expectations, peer
pressure and teacher quality as key factors.
The gap also shows up in graduation rates and college attendance. A recent
report from the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership showed a slight
increase in higher education enrollment among students of color. But Carlos
Mariani-Rosa, MMEP executive director, says the high school drop out rate is
tempering the success.
"We are only preparing a fraction of the students that this state needs if
it is our choice to be a high skill, high wage, high quality of life state,"
Mariani said. "And we're only preparing a small fraction of the students of
color that are coming through our educational system."
Educators are trying lots of strategies to narrow that gap. Smaller class
sizes, expanded early-childhood education programs, higher academic
standards and more rigorous courses offer some promise.
The federal government is also pushing schools to narrow the achievement
gap. The No Child Left Behind Act established new accountability measures
that more clearly identify racial disparities in every school. The federal
law also requires those schools to raise the academic performance of all
student groups. U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige describes the achievement
gap as the civil rights issue of our time.
"Prejudice will not end until we close the achievement gap--not by lowering
standards but by raising all children to meet the highest standards of
education," Paige said.
Posted by hawki068 at September 21, 2004 4:53 PM