I attended the first of 3 school board candidate forums last evening. The focus of the night was on racial disparities and ways to create equity in education. This situation in our school district is critical right now.
The statistical differences on test scores between white and non white students is staggering. According to Minnesota Report Card website (https://rc.education.state.mn.us/# ), the results of the 2018 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) scores for the Osseo School District show white students were 73% proficient in math, with nonwhite students far behind: Black students (28%), Hispanic/Latino (34.2%), Asian (51.6%) and Native American (47.8). Reading and science scores showed similar disparities. All students were given the same education, so why the huge achievement gap? Because it's not about equality, it's about equity.
You may have seen the graphic showing 3 people of different heights trying to see over a wall. When they are simply helped equally with the same sized box to step up on, the result only helps the taller person, who didn't need even need help. But when they are each given what they actually need, with an equitable distribution of boxes, all can achieve the goal. Thus equity means that from no matter where you are starting, you have the tools and resources available to achieve your goals. It is not an equal distribution of those tools and resources, but one that makes it just and fair for all.
(Image used with permission by the Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire. Please visit interactioninstitute.org and madewithangus.com. )
Many students in our district come from low income families with poor support and limited resources, creating barriers, or inequities, in their education. These students may have a single parent home, or a home where parents are working multiple jobs. The parents may speak limited English, or may not understand some American customs. The students may be under incredible stress due to family illness, life changes, gender identity struggles, or unsafe living situations. These students will need more time, more support, more financial and staff resources than other students who do not have such barriers. By addressing solutions to these barriers, we can begin to give every student an equitable education.
When elected, I will work to continue and expand the free preschool programs we now offer at several targeted schools so more children can participate. Early childhood education is demonstrated to improve student achievement and even increase graduation rates. I will work to eliminate suspensions for all but the most dangerous offenses. Suspensions do affect academic performance and can be used by colleges to deny admission. Maintaining low class sizes in the early elementary years should continue to be our norm. This too, has been shown to improve academic achievement. Finally, our district needs to actively hire teachers of color so more students can see a reflection of themselves in a leadership role.
Our district resources should go wherever the needs are. It's similar to a teacher who must consider the different types of learners in the classroom; teaching is tailored to the learning styles and needs of the individual students in the class, so all students can learn. This is called differentiated instruction. Likewise, whatever individual schools require in resources, staff and programs must also be tailored to the specific needs of each school community. We need to fix this; we need all children to succeed. Only then can we say we have achieved equity in education.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Where do you think we should be begin? Please contact me with your ideas and concerns.