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Developing an Achievement and Educational Equity Gap Library Resource for the Twin Cities.

Manganaro, Christine.

Minnesota policymakers, teachers and community members have known about the achievement gap for decades, and despite their best efforts it continues to exist. The challenge has launched numerous initiatives, reports, pilot projects, and task forces, from school-specific solutions to broader community-based solutions. School districts, state and local governments, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and others have all worked on the problem. A review of the historical record shows a long list of well intentioned but inadequate efforts to close the gap. The following research is an effort to chronicle the history of those efforts, and learn from them.

Research shows evolving language and philosophies in how we understand and attempt to solve the achievement gap. Some focus on school-based solutions to improve math and reading test scores. Others take a broader view, looking at access to early childhood education or health care, things that are not school specific but support academic success. Among people deeply involved in this work, there appears to be a growing “achievement gap fatigue.” Some believe that the achievement gap framework should be replaced by an “equity gap” or “opportunity gap” framework, which provides a broader umbrella to understand differences in student achievement. However, there is no consensus on what equity means, and a clearer understanding is needed if we are to harness the political will to successfully address chronic educational disparities.

There seems to be general agreement on a few things. Better coordination is needed. Policy makers and education professionals need easier access to the good information already available. Further, if gaps are not closed, it will hurt Minnesota’s long-term competitiveness and economic success.

This report summarizes the summer’s research, but does not represent the most important work products. This project has created three main products:

  1. The Library: The project has the beginnings of a list of state and local efforts to close the achievement and opportunity gaps. This is an effort to create some historical memory around these initiatives and create a central repository for policymakers, advocates and the media. There is an Excel sheet with recent initiatives as well as a paper archive. This is a start, but not exhaustive. This is in the possession of Scott Russell.
  2. A Clearinghouse: A draft document provides the outline of a website/directory of Minnesota-based organizations working in this area. A more ambitious website could include interactive elements, such thing as an events calendar and/or Wikipedia. This is also in the possession of Scott Russell, who compiled the list of organizations.
  3. A Compilation of Best Research and Analysis: The library is voluminous and most people won’t have the time to sift through it. Project leaders felt it was important to highlight some of the best work, a sort of Required Reading List, so it does not get lost in the volume of material on the topic.

Next Steps: The Committee on the Achievement Gap sponsored this research and has secured a $10,000 grant to start a website. It might choose to do it on its own site, develop one in partnership with other organizations, or pass the library on to an organization with a similar mission and more capacity. The Minnesota Minority Education Partnership already has expressed interest in collaborating on the project. Further discussions are needed with other organizations working in this Achievement and Equity Gap Library Project 4 area. The key in moving forward on the library is to find the right fit, where the site supports ongoing work rather than duplicating it.

Publication date: 
Funded by a Communiversity Personnel Grant from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.
42 pp.
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