By Donald Allen
The Minnesota House of Representatives have enacted a bill attempting to establish a “13th” grade pilot project based in north Minneapolis. The bill, H.F. 1149 is part of an education and employability solution for young adults who are unemployed, underemployed and not enrolled in postsecondary education.
Co-authored by Senators Jeff Hayden (D-SD 62), Bobby Joe Champion (D-SD 59), Representatives Ray Dehn (D-HD 59B) and Will Morgan (D-SD 56B), the bill is said to potentially impact over 3,000 young adults ages 18-26, placing them on college and career pathways by 2015. It states the commissioner of education shall develop a one-year 13th-grade pilot project, with one site being operated by the Minneapolis Urban League.
The “13th” grade proposal is problematic because a one-year pilot program is expected to eradicate generations of educational failures in poor minority communities and the parties involved seem not to understand Minnesota’s employability issues and current status of K-12 education [if any] in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Public School systems.
The Minneapolis Urban League (MUL), who currently operates the Urban League Academy in Minneapolis, has not shown any success in their private educational ventures. The school, according to U.S. News and World Report, shows test scores (U.S. News calculates these values based on student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level coursework) of 27 percent reading proficiency with math not reported and college readiness omitted from the report.
It is not educationally sound for an agency like the MUL to be involved in a venture of this nature when they cannot communicate, represent, or show positive outcomes for the people they currently represent, if any. In 2013, the MUL does not speak for many residents as it pertains to Minnesota’s education system or successes therein.
This leads to the second challenge in Minnesota’s K-12 education system. Last week, outgoing CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien toured the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) facilities for an upcoming report on “Black in America.”
O’Brien and CNN, seeking to answer questions on Minnesota’s challenges with the achievement gap, was in Minneapolis to celebrate the NAZ program, which identifies poor families with pre-K children in a predetermined pilot area of north Minneapolis. The parents are channeled through a variety of different classes with the award being a t-shirt for their pre-K children that reads, “College Graduate 2035.”
The Northside Achievement Zone, which in December of 2011 received $28 million from the U.S. Promise Neighborhood Program, has yet to show how they will report successes in 2013 with promises of graduates from college in 2035. Pre-K children in the NAZ project area and surrounding neighborhoods are more likely to be dropouts, expelled, or killed by violent crime according to Ronald A. Edwards, a Minnesota historian and the longest seated chairman of the Minneapolis Urban League.
Edwards states, “The Minneapolis Urban League has not seen much in the area of educational success for its now closed elementary school or their high school. The Urban League is attempting to make themselves relevant in 2013 — not because of their concern for the education of Black youth, but to get money — they’re broke.”
The NAZ program from the U.S. Promise Neighborhood grant only lasts for five years; after $28 million is spent — mostly in administrative costs — what real results will north Minneapolis see in education?
The Minneapolis Urban League’s 13th-grade proposal at the Minnesota State Legislature and NAZ both feature a boutique community engagement piece reminiscent of many past failures in Minnesota’s education system. It could be important to ask the question, “Who represents students in the Pre-K and K-12 public school system?”
The duty should fall upon the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the local districts, but in the last 10 years, the MDE has done little to nothing in the area of addressing the achievement gap while celebrating more “performance art” initiatives in a failed attempt to solve a problem of educational equity from the top down.
What both programs and program leaders fail to recognize are the facts. There is too much racial discrimination in Minnesota to adequately address the achievement gap and issues of unemployment. According to a story in the Star Tribune: “Minnesota has the worst joblessness gap in the country between whites and blacks according to the Institute on Public Policy in Washington, DC.” The 2010 City of Minneapolis Disparity Report states the same: “We conclude that the statistical evidence presented in this report is consistent with these anecdotal accounts of contemporary business discrimination.”
Minnesota’s public school system has problems also. Minnesota — more specifically the Minneapolis Public Schools — has one of the largest achievement gaps between Whites and Blacks in the U.S. If one were to combine the issues, based on fact and sound logic, there is no way either of these programs will work given the current methods of perpetual poverty in Minneapolis, especially the city’s north side.
This is nothing more than moving chairs around on the Titanic.
Donald Allen is editor-in-chief of OurBlackNews.com.