You may have heard of the “achievement gap,” the educational disparity that exists between different groups of kindergarten through 12th-grade students. What you may not know is that Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country. Our state’s students of color, English-language learners and students of low socioeconomic status achieve academically at rates below their white-student counterparts.
As a Group, Minnesota's students score at or near the top of most academic measures available such as the ACT, SAT, graduation rates and more. But those data hide ugly truths. When student groups are subdivided, the reality is revealed: Many of our children, mostly students of color, are falling far short of their potential. Ironically, it is this population that will reflect the majority in a dozen years.
Schools receiving federal aid were ranked this past year on their ability to close the achievement gap. The rankings demonstrate that, while improvements are being made, much more work needs to be done. The responsibility lies with all of us: educators, parents, school leaders, politicians, policymakers and community members.
It is not enough to just close the gap, as we need all children to continue to grow and attain in their highest achievment levels. We know this to be an essential ingredient for future success in life.
"Indeed, the achievment gap should not be considered the gap between black children's performance and whit children's performance -- the latter of which can be consifered only mediocre on an international scale -- but rather between black children's performance and these same children's exponentially greater potential," as Lisa Delpit wrote.
The same could be said of Native American and Latino students' performances and their own exponentially greater potential. The point is that all of our young people deserve an education that offers them opportunities an the expectation to be the best the can be.
Delpit is an internationally recognized expert on the challenges of diversity and achievement in K-12 education. The School of Education at the College of St. Scholastica understands the need to finde solutions to this critical issue. We have invited Delpit to keynote out 21st Century Teaching and Learning Conference on Tuesday. Ger Seminal book, "Other People's Children," is a thought-provoking work that gives educators insights into achievement disparities and provides insights that challenge us to address the problem effecitvely.
When we face a 40 percent to 50 percent drop-out rate of our students of color ultimately we face economic crisis. Students who fraduate from high school have a higher income over their lifespans. those who go on to graduate from college have an even better chance of success.
Developing the talents of students of color is essential for reasons beyond fairness and social justice. It's also a workforce issue. The number of high school graduates is in decline in Minnesota. The only growth within the broader drop is among students of color. To fill thousnads of jobs in Minnesota that will require highly educated workers, we must make the most of our 18- to 25-year-old demographic -- or those jobs are certain to go elsewhere.
The 21st Century Teaching and Learining Conference will feature presentations by educators from this area and throughout the state on topics including retention of American Indian students, immigration and Latino students, culturally responsive teaching, technology integration and more. Conference sessions meet Minnesota Department of Education re-licensure stands.
Our hope is that through dialogue and the sharing of best practices we educators can engage, reflect and connect.As professionals, we're responsible for helping to lead society's larger discusiion about developing the abilities of our young people. The 21st Century Teaching and Learning Conference provides an opportunity for us to do this. All educators are welcome.
By: Chery Takkunen and Amy Bergstrom, current faculty members at the College of St. Scholastic.
Duluth News Tribune