Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It Should Not Happen in MN

Ever come upon a newspaper headline that drives you away from a story? “Oh, no! I don’t want to read this! It can’t be! Not here in Minnesota! Not in my state!
by Charlie Leck”

Race Drives School Labels, Discipline
Minnesota leads the U.S. in its rate of black students labeled with
emotional and behavioral problems, prompting calls for change.

How about a high school that hasn’t graduated
a single student in the last couple of years?

StarTribune story, by Jeffrey Metrodt, tells us about the Harrison Education Center in north Minneapolis. I find myself cursing as I read it.

“The school is where Minneapolis sends special education students with the worst behavior problems, kids who typically failed everywhere else they went.”

Ninety percent (90%) of the students are black! The school was designed as a temporary placement for kids. It’s not, however.

Why does Minnesota have such a scorching, embarrassing problem with the extraordinary gap in achievement between black and white students? It’s a question that appears to have no answer – no certain answer anyway – only a lot of guesses and maybe this or that’s.

This is not the kind of story to which I would normally refer my readers. I’m usually boasting about Minnesota and exclaiming its wonders. Yet, here a troubling story that everyone and anyone interested in education – interested in racial problems in education – interested in deep-seeded problems in education – must read.

I’m not even going to quote any of the appalling statistics in this article. They’re too embarrassing for me to put on paper. As I read them, I could only cringe and shake my head.

The charge is leveled!
I had a hard time denying it. I didn’t like what she said, but I, for god’s sake (really), have got to consider it. It came from Liz Keenan, an educator who oversees special education programs up here.

“We can’t fool ourselves, kids are tearing up the classrooms, too. But it is perceived differently when you have a black student tearing it up than a white student.,,, look at a loud, aggressive white child and label them spirited, and the very same behavior with a black child is labeled emotional behavioral disorder.”

I hated this frickin’ article. I tried several times to stop reading it. I didn’t like hearing about special “green rooms” and “breakout rooms.” Not in my town! Not here!

Finally, near the end of the article, I click away. I go to the sport section. I take deep breaths and close my eyes.

Someone has got to get hold of this problem right now. Not in ten years! No more studies. No more failures to spend the right amount of money to solve the problem, This is America. We are not some undeveloped nation on a far away continent. This is the land of the free and the brave. This is the place where everyone has a right to a high quality, free education. This is a land where the color of your skin doesn’t matter and isn’t considered… strike that last comment and forget I said it.

Come on Minneapolis.
Dig deep! We’re building a billion dollar stadium for a football team. What’s got into us? Let’s figure this out and then boast the best record in the nation and not the very worst!

I mean it!


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  1. I dunno, isn't this yet another case of blaming educators for social and economic problems that are not their fault? The reason you have lots of disciplinary problems with black kids is that there is much more poverty and social pathology in that community. This is terrible of course but it isn't the fault of our educators.

    If we want to solve this we have to focus on the underlying causes, rather than periodically directing misguided animus against teachers.

    As to why the gap is higher in Minnesota than other states, I would guess its because white kids in Minnesota are unusually well-behaved compared to, say, Alabama white kids.. The whole Lake Wobegon culture and everything.

    1. Indeed! The point here is that Minnesota ranks so high in the problems that are outlined here. We MUST ask the question: Why?