The racial gap in school

MPR’s Tom Weber takes a look at two issues facing Minneapolis — and many other schools — today.

His report on the state of Minneapolis schools is about as sobering as it gets. Despite every attempt by administrators to maintain an upbeat attitude, how do you find any hope in the racial and ethnic disparities? (Full report here)

  • 87 percent of whites are considered ready for kindergarten, compared to just 24 percent of Hispanic children.
  • Only 36 percent of American-Indian third graders are proficient readers.
  • 73 percent of white eighth graders were math proficient, compared to 14 percent of African-Americans and 9 percent of American Indian students.

    Suffice it to say, the kids aren’t using their cellphones to get test answers, which is the concern uttered in his other story today: The concern that students are misuing their cellphones.

    Are we getting anywhere with reducing racial disparities in education?

    In the preliminary basic skills test in 1996, statewide, whites scored about 80.1% correct on the math and 73.8% correct on reading, while African Americans scored 59.5 and 54.5% correct on the math and reading exams, respectively. A a 19.3 to 20.6 percentage point gap between Black and White test scores, according to a study of Minnesota in 2004 that claimed poverty had little to do with the gap, and how the students were treated probably did.

    A 2004 series by Minnesota Public Radio looked at the gap and found a conglomeration of roadblocks — race, class and culture. In one basket-case school in St. Paul (Dayton’s Bluff), a new administration and curriculum was installed with encouraging results. In the most recent tests, 54% of African Americans at the school were reading at a proficient level, compared to 77% of whites. In math, the gap was only 10%.

    Statewide, however, the gap is significant: 34% between blacks and whites in reading, 35% in math.

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