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Minnesota High School Promoting Social Justice Berated for Lower Ranking, Stagnant Test Scores

February 3, 2018

Two articles in today’s Google Alert for Public Schools excoriate the Edina, Minnesota public schools for their decision four years ago to emphasize social justice (see here and here). Both articles draw from a Weekly Standard article written by Katherine Kersten, a Senior Policy Fellow with a free-market think tank called the Center of the American Experiment, an article that criticizes the school districts decision to place an emphasis on racial inequality. And both articles flag the same quotes from Ms. Kersten’s article:

The shift began in 2013, when Edina school leaders adopted the “All for All” strategic plan—a sweeping initiative that reordered the district’s mission from academic excellence for all students to “racial equity.”

“Equity” in this context does not mean “equality” or “fairness.” It means racial identity politics—an ideology that blames minority students’ academic challenges on institutional racial bias, repudiates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s color-blind ideal, and focuses on uprooting “white privilege.”

The Edina school district’s All for All plan mandated that henceforth “all teaching and learning experiences” would be viewed through the “lens of racial equity,” and that only “racially conscious” teachers and administrators should be hired. District leaders assured parents this would reduce Edina’s racial achievement gap, which they attributed to “barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings.”

And both articles use standardized test scores to conclude that this emphasis is a failure:

Four years into the Edina schools’ equity crusade, black students’ test scores continue to disappoint. There’s been a single positive point of data: Black students’ reading scores—all ages, all grades—have slightly increased, from 45.5 percent proficiency in 2014 to 46.4 percent proficiency in 2017.

But other than that, the news is all bad. Black students “on track for success” in reading decreased from 48.1 percent in 2014 to 44.9 percent in 2017. Math scores decreased from 49.6 percent proficiency in 2014 to 47.4 percent in 2017. Black students “on track for success” in math decreased from 51.4 percent in 2014 to 44.7 percent in 2017.

The drop was most notable at the high school level. Math scores for black students in 11th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 31 percent proficiency in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2017. In reading, scores for black students in 10th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 51.7 percent proficiency in 2014 to 40 percent in 2017.

And one of the articles indicated that (horror of horrors):

“US News & World Report ranked Edina Senior High as the 4th best high school in the state in 2017 (based on 2014-2015 academic year data), but that’s down from 1st place in US News’ 2014 ranking (based on earlier data). It’s still an outstanding high school but the trend appears to be heading in the wrong direction.

I don’t know if the “All for All” plan is working well or not, because the effectiveness of the plan cannot be measured by the seemingly precise standardized test scores or the US News and World Report’s ranking system that is rooted in test scores. I am certain that when the Edina School Board adopted their strategic plan they did not intend to rely on standardized test scores to determine if their program was effective, for I am certain that the test scores were not the sole factor that compelled them launch the “All for All” initiative. But I am certain of this: the Weekly Standard and the two sites that published these articles— Hot Air and the Independent Women’s Forum are full of articles promoting the kind of libertarian ideas that the Koch brothers hold… and libertarians, contrary to their professed beliefs, are not open minded when it comes to economic and racial equality or the funding equity that “government schools” seek. Here’s hoping that these broadsides fall on deaf ears in Edina… but my hunch after reading about the Koch brothers’ intentions to spend freely to introduce “reform” is that these articles are the beginning of a drumbeat to unseat the “soft-headed” Board members who introduced the idea of social justice and replace them with board members who seek accountability based on hard data.

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