Politics & Policy,

Mind the Gap: Four Solutions to the Education Achievement Gap

photo by P. A. Jensen

C. N. Hughes, Ed.D.
State Agency on Trends In Race and Education
State of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Dr. Hughes,

This letter summarizes the findings of our grant (“Closing Minnesota’s Race-Based Educational Achievement Gap at All Costs,” $1.2M) from your agency. I believe that you will be pleased with our progress, and we look forward to the execution of our recommendations within the state’s education policies.

As you are undoubtedly aware, Minnesota’s average ACT score routinely ranks highly nationwide. As you are also aware, state leaders often point to this statistic as evidence of the quality of Minnesota’s education system. However, this statistic is inflated by an overachieving sub-class of white students. Indeed, Minnesota’s white students are very competitive nationally, and because Minnesota is predominantly white, the state’s ACT scores give the mistaken impression that the state is serving its students and communities well overall.

Unfortunately, the state’s black and Latino students are, by the same national standards, merely mediocre. Compared to the excellent performance of white students, this mediocrity is unacceptable, and is clearly a major failing of the public-education system. Going forward, we feel that this staggering education achievement gap between white students and students of color—and not the widespread success of the majority of the state’s students—should be the focus of your Agency’s directives. Frankly, we must remain focused on the big picture.

To that end, our Commission has developed four executables aimed at lessening the state’s racial achievement gap. Let me warn you: some of these measures may seem drastic. However, we know that your commitment to equity and justice will guarantee your support and implementation of these measures.

Directive 1: Eliminate advanced, college-credit classes in high schools. Opportunities for high-school students to earn college credit, even if those opportunities are well-meaning, merely reinforce the racial achievement gap. That is, they are utilized primarily by white students. In fact, our research uncovered many instances, especially in out-state areas, where not a single student of color enrolled in any of these classes! (Note: please expect our forthcoming grant application for the important work of ascertaining the root causes of this baffling finding.) Also, because these classes encourage deep engagement with high-level content, white students are even further bettering their educations, which is contrary to our aims and is therefore unacceptable. We recommend that the state eliminate these opportunities in the name of equity and justice.

Directive 2: Eliminate several institutions of higher learning. Our findings indicate that, despite decades-long initiatives aimed at diversifying Minnesota’s four-year colleges and universities, college students in the state remain predominantly white. (Note: again, please expect another forthcoming grant application for the important work of ascertaining the root causes of this baffling finding.) We find this to be especially true of elite private colleges and the state’s major research university. Unfortunately, these institutions also serve to widen the achievement gap, because (predominantly white) alumni of these institutions have a habit of procreating with one another, and subsequently demanding that their (predominantly white) children gain acceptance to the same institutions, thereby limiting opportunities for others. Therefore, we recommend closing these institutions, and perhaps repurposing them as training centers for teachers of color (see below).

Directive 3: Increase the number of teachers of color. Our research suggests a staggering gap between the percentage of students of color and the percentage of teachers of color statewide. The number of teachers of color is especially paltry in out-state areas. (Note: yet again, please expect yet another forthcoming grant application for the important work of ascertaining the root causes of this baffling finding.) We suggest a frank discussion with the state’s school administrators in order to uncover the reasons for their repeated refusal to hire more teachers of color. Further, we recommend a frank discussion with the state’s college administrators regarding why college students of color are apparently disallowed from majoring in education (or attending their institutions at all; see point #2 above). These discussions will certainly provide more concrete explanations than the theory, as some have proposed, that the disparity is due merely to the arithmetic of demographic traits, especially different birth rates among racial groups. Balderdash.

Directive 4: Demand equity of learning in the home. Our research suggests, perhaps for the very first time in the history of ever, that educational success depends heavily on the home environment. Perhaps—and forgive me for speculating—this is due to family members’ aiding learning directly, or to their instilling a cultural commitment to education generally. Obviously, this must end. We recommend considering criminal statutes regarding the furtherance of this unregulated, inequitable brainwashing, which undoubtedly contributes to the racial achievement gap. We suggest, for example, making the teaching of shapes and numbers to preschoolers by non-state agents a misdemeanor; if a pre-K student can read upon enrollment, we recommend imprisonment of at least one parent. Also, perhaps it goes without saying that children’s books should be eliminated from the home, just to be safe. (We are willing to compromise regarding the presence of non-children’s books in the home.) We see no other way to combat the dastardly spiral of inequity that we see, especially considering the apparent failure of state-funded pre-kindergarten classes to close the racial gap.

Again, we thank you for your continued commitment to racial equity in education in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

L’Etoile du Nord,

P. A. Jensen, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice Director of Research
Commission On Law On Race—Bureau of Law In Non-Discrimination
State of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55155



P. A. Jensen is editor of RuralityCheck.com.

He lives in northern Minnesota with his wife and son.


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