We know how to close the success gap

Creating a Minnesota where all children can thrive requires a serious examination of how we are failing to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations. The reality is that Minnesota has some of the widest gaps in the nation when it comes to educational outcomes measured by race and socioeconomic status.

Not only are our gaps large, but our students of color also perform worse in direct comparison to students of color in many other states. In eighth-grade reading assessments given to students nationwide, black students in Minnesota rank near the bottom (tied for 36th out of 41 states), black students in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi scored outperform black students in our state. And our graduation rates continue to be among the worst in the nation for children of color.

A recently released Legislative Auditor’s report found that state leaders lacked a strategic plan or policy to improve educational outcomes for Minnesota’s increasingly diverse student population (“Audit indicates that Minnesota’s Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap Lack Clarity and Structure,” March 9). The good news is that research and experience have validated proven, successful educational interventions.

As we emerge from a pandemic that has disrupted learning for students across the state, the report underscores the need for policymakers to match financial investments in education with these bold, community-backed policy changes. research :

Quality early childhood education. To ensure a strong academic foundation before kindergarten, investments should be made in early learning scholarships that target low-income families and send children into high-quality programs. According to a new report, Minnesota meets only five of 10 quality criteria for early childhood education and ranks only 29th for preschool access for 3-year-olds and 37th for preschool access. access for 4-year-old children.

As the 2022 legislative session unfolds, with a record budget surplus available, now is the time to act to increase both the quantity and quality of early childhood education options.

Research-based tutoring programs. Trained tutors (including volunteers) can lead to significant academic gains, especially in elementary schools. In the aftermath of the pandemic, national leaders called for massive investment in guardians. Other states have started to act. For example, Tennessee is spending $200 million on a statewide tutoring program for 150,000 reading and math students. State and district leaders should invest in effective tutoring programs here in Minnesota.

Scientific literacy (explicit teaching of phonetics). The research is clear: we know how to teach children to read. Explicit and consistent instruction in phonics and decoding is fundamental to developing proficient readers. A dedicated phonetic program leads to better comprehension – as readers master decoding text, they free up mental space to understand increasingly complex words and themes and access a program rich in literature, history , science and arts.

Too many classrooms across Minnesota use “whole language” or “balanced literacy” curricula, which ignore decades of research and do not include enough explicit phonetic instruction to ensure that all students become good readers.

Increase teacher diversity. Minnesota has one of the largest gaps in the nation between our percentage of students of color and teachers of color. Having even one black teacher in elementary school makes kids more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to enroll in college, and teachers of color have an impact positive on the learning of students of all races.

One solution that has met with significant resistance in the Minnesota Legislature is to expand alternative and non-traditional paths to teaching careers. In recent years, policy makers have made some progress in this area, but not enough.

Transparency of school performance. Minnesota collects a lot of information about student and school performance, but it’s often difficult to find and interpret. Many families struggle to know if their school or district is doing well and if their child’s needs are being met. Many states have adopted “summative” school rating systems, which typically use a number of stars or a 1-100 rating scale to tell families how schools are performing. A redesign of the Minnesota report card is overdue.

We know what works to help all Minnesota kids learn. It is time for policy makers to act.

Daniel Sellers is Executive Director of the Ciresi Walburn Foundation.

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