Monday, November 11, 2013

Doug Mann for Minneapolis School Board in 2014

Doug Mann for School Board, citywide

"I believe that education is a right, not a privilege, and that a quality K-12 public education should be available to all on an equal basis"


1) Reduce exposure of low-income and non-white students to inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover rates by not firing and replacing most teachers during their 3 year probationary period. We must put safeguards in place to prevent the arbitrary firing and replacement of probationary teachers.

2) Eliminate watered-down curriculum tracks.

3) Support teacher job protections, including seniority and tenure rights

Oppose corporate school reforms and charter-ization of the public school system


The big achievement gaps between racial groups and between poor and non-poor students has two main sources: Effects of Poverty and unequal access to a quality, public education.


1) Poverty puts children and their families under stress. Compared to non-poor children, a greater proportion of children in poverty experience toxic levels of stress that interfere with learning. 


Three major obstacles to eliminating racial disparities in income and educational attainment are

1) Unequal enforcement of criminal laws, especially the so-called War on Drugs

2)  Lack of enforcement of fair housing and employment laws. There are no government agencies empowered to detect and prosecute those who covertly violate fair housing and employment laws.

3) Unequal access to a quality, public education.


There are unequal conditions of learning within the school system caused by policy decisions. For example, low-income and non-white students are heavily exposed to inexperienced teachers and watered-down curriculum.

Doug Mann's model of school reform:

Reduce exposure of low-income and non-white students to inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover rate, which was also the goal of the District Improvement Plan in 2002. The Minneapolis School District should retain inexperienced teacher so they become experience teachers by not firing and replacing them with more new teachers during their probationary period.

Eliminate watered-down curriculum tracks: Many school districts in Minnesota integrate the general student population into strong academic programs and do not "ability-group" students into separate classrooms and in-class instructional groups. In Montessori programs, teachers allow students to group themselves for small group projects. The more student-centered, enriched curriculum used in gifted and talented programs works well for most students. Students who are separated and identified as lower-ability students generally receive instruction that is more teacher centered, that involves more drill-and-kill exercises, worksheets, etc.

Accountability of the School Board and administration: 

1) The district should collect, disaggregate, and publish data as required under chapter 3535 of Minnesota Administrative Rules (Equal Opportunity in Education), which includes teacher step and lane data, including percentages of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year teachers in each and every school.

2) A comparison of student outcomes, including tests scores, attendance rates, suspension rates according to curriculum track placement, both citywide and school building level, and correlated with teacher step and lane data.


Over the past 15 years I have correctly predicted that all of the school district's plans to close the achievement gap would fail, not only because there was no plan to eliminate child poverty and eliminate racial disparities in access to jobs and housing at the federal, state, county, or municipal level, but also because the school district failed to take action to reduce the exposure of low-income and non-white students to inexperienced teachers and watered-down curriculum. Until recently, every year the district fired all teachers who had not yet begun their 4th year of employment, and selectively re-hired those who reapplied for their jobs and replaced the rest. Even after deep cuts in the teacher workforce between 2001 and 2004, about one-fourth of the district's classroom teachers were on probationary status. The State of MN published data from a period of 2001 to 2004 that showed teachers on probationary status were very heavily concentrated in schools where students of color were heavily concentrated. Differences in exposure of students to inexperienced or provisionally licensed teachers alone can explain a big part of the achievement gap, in my opinion.


Closing the achievement gap has been the stated goal of federal and state K-12 education policy going back to the late 1960s. Some progress was made in generally upgrading and equalizing the quality of instruction for students in the K-12 school system via court order desegregation plans and via the elimination of ability-grouping, especially in early elementary grades. However a change in course was signaled in April 1983 by the release of the report on K-12 public schools commission by the Reagan administration, titled "A Nation at Risk." That was the beginning of an era of K-12 public school becoming increasingly racially segregated and unequal. Ability-grouping was again promoted aggressively as the model for educating children at all grade levels in the public school system.


In 1995, the Minneapolis School Board passed a resolution entitled closing the gap: Ensuring that all students can learn. The Closing the gap resolution asserted that the achievement gap was largely a reflection of parent involvement, and a shift to Community Schools, schools that are closer to the students homes would increase parent involvement, especially for students of color. At that point, enrollment of students of color was more than 15% above the district average for grade levels served in 8 schools. By 2005 enrollment of students of color was more than 20% of the district average for grade levels served, or more than 90% in 23 schools. There was no convincing evidence that the racial achievement gap had been reduced at all during that period. If anything, the gap had gotten worse.

The Closing the Gap resolution noted that a shift toward Community / neighborhood schools would make the district's schools less racially integrated, but that the district would try to minimize this effect by the way attendance boundaries are drawn, school sites selected, etc. Yet, it appeared that the district administration was doing exactly the opposite.  In 1996 the MN Board of Education granted the district a waiver from the state's Desegregation Rule, and the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution in support of the Community School Plan.


In 1997, the district required gifted programs in all school, as early as grade two, if any parent requested that their child be enrolled in a gifted program. The district also issued teacher edition curriculum guides in the Summer of 1997 that advocated ability-grouping for reading instruction as early as kindergarten. Prior to this, gifted and talented programs were offered to students in grades 4 and up, and ability-grouping was avoided prior to the 3rd grade.  Low-income and non-white students were heavily concentrated in the lower-ability classrooms. Student achievement data broken down by race and poverty for students continuously enrolled in the district over the next few years suggested very poor outcomes for students placed in classrooms by ability for reading instruction.

The Community School Plan and new ability-grouping practices were causing an uproar in the African American community, as evidenced by comments of community members brought together around the NAACP education adequacy lawsuit, a lawsuit filed against the State of MN by the NAACP alleging that not all students in the Minneapolis Public Schools were being adequately education. It is not likely a coincidence that enrollment of students in grades K and 1 began to plummet for African American, Asian-American, and Indian / Native American students from 1997 to 1998 and in subsequent years.


In 2001, the US Congress endorsed a school reform agenda embedded in the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act and marketed as "No Child Left Behind.  In my opinion, the NCLB represented a continuation of a flight from equality in K-12 education that began in 1983. Most of the NCLB's components, like high-stakes tests and charter schools had already been promoted in the past period. The novel thing about NCLB was the use of high stakes tests as part of a mechanism to impose a corporate school reform agenda which includes taking away teacher job protections and promoting charters.

The 2002 District Improvement plan set a goal of bringing teacher turnover rates to low levels in all schools by increasing retention of new teachers.  It stood to reason that reducing the exposure of students of color to inexperienced teachers would help to close the racial test score gap.  But the district administration continued to fire nearly all probationary teachers, selectively re-hire some who reapplied for their jobs, and replace the rest with new teachers.


In 2003, David Jennings took the helm of the Minneapolis Public Schools. Jennings laid out the general outlines of a plan to get the district out of the business of running schools, except in SW Minneapolis, and maybe a school here and there in the rest of the district. The district would down its own school programs and rent the buildings to charter school operators. Jennings ideas about charter-izing the district were generally approved of by the school board members, at least in public. When Jenning's contract came up for review, there was agitation against his continued leadership. I joined chorus, but leading opponents of Jennings, including Bill English, said that we need a Black Superintendent. Two of Jennings supporters included future Board members Pam Costain and Carla Bates.


The search for a new school superintendent began. More than 100 applications were received. Two of the three finalists were Black women. All of the finalists were associated with the Broad (pronounced "brode") Foundation's superintendent school. The Broad Foundation was founded and generously funded by Eli Broad, a multi-billionaire, to promote the New Child Left Behind Agenda. It also happened that the president of the MInneapolis teachers union at the time, Louise Sundin, was portrayed by the Broad Foundation as a leader of the Broad-sponsored Teachers Union Reform Movement. The School Board picked Thandiwe Peebles, one of the Broad Foundation candidates, as the superintendent. Peelbes,' presumably with approval of the Minneapolis School Board, lobbied for the end of Seniority and Tenure Rights for teachers at the Minnesota legislature.


The Strategic Plan was developed under the guidance of McKinsey and Company, a global management consultant firm that supports the No Child Left Behind agenda. McKinsey and company has done a lot of consulting for the Minneapolis Public Schools. The Strategic Plan set very ambitious test-score-gap-closing goals. However, Doug Mann opposed the Strategic Plan because it failed to address factors like the high exposure of students of color to inexperienced teachers and watered-down curriculum, and was therefore doomed to failure as a test-score-gap-closing plan. The School Board was focused on compliance with requirements of No Child Left Behind. Minneapolis Public Schools began to sponsor charter schools and push more vigorously for elimination of teacher seniority and tenure right in collective bargaining agreements with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.


In May 2013, Superintendent Johnson announced a shift in the governance of the district's Struggling and Target schools, where few to no white students are enrolled. This shift involves the elimination of seniority and tenure rights for teachers, a substantially longer school day and school year for students and teachers in Struggling and Target schools, and instruction that is much more focused on prepping students for high-stakes tests, which involves narrowing of the curriculum and making it more teacher-centered, more "drill and kill" learning activities.

The shift in policy related to Struggling and Target schools was advocated by Carla Bates while running for re-election to the citywide school board seat. Bates was first endorsed by the DFL (Democratic Party) and elected to the school board in 2008. Carla Bates was a founder and chief spokesperson for Put Kids First Minneapolis until she sought DFL endorsement for a seat on the school board in 2008. Put Kids First Minneapolis has always identified seniority and tenure rights as an obstacle to closing the racial achievement gap. Carla Bates faced no opposition to her endorsement by the DFL and headed a slate of school board candidates in 2012.

The shift in policy related to Struggling and Target schools also has the support of outgoing Mayor of Minneapolis, RT Rybak and Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges.  The DFL Close the Gap Committee headed by former Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser supports The Shift. It is backed by the school board members and other elected officials.

At a mayoral candidate forum in 2013 sponsored by MinnCan and other groups supportive of corporate school reforms, all six invited candidates (Andrew, Cherryhomes, Hodges, Samuels, Winton, and Woodruff) declared their support for the shift. This represented an about-face for Andrew, who had criticized the district's reform agenda as a right-wing, ALEC-supported conspiracy to destroy the public schools. Mark Andrew followed-up by announcing the formation of his advisory committee, to be headed by Mike Ciresi, a supporter of the NCLB agenda, and Louise Sundin, former president of the Minneapolis Federation of teachers and leader of the Teachers Union Reform Network, which was sponsored by the Broad Foundation