MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The achievement gap between white and minority students remains as big as ever in Minnesota schools, despite a “restorative justice” approach to student discipline designed to address the problem.
Student scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments released Thursday show that student achievement has flatlined, and despite efforts to keep unruly minority students in school with a “restorative justice” discipline policy, a persistent achievement gap shows the approach has had little effect.
“White students are more than twice as likely as their Native American and Hispanic peers to be proficient in science, and more than two-and-a-half times as likely as their African American peers,” Alpha News reports.
“Only 25 percent of African American students in grades five, eight, and high school met expectations in the science portion of the MCAs.”
Overall, reading proficiency statewide increased by one percentage point to 60 percent, while math proficiency among third- through eighth-graders slid one point to 61 percent, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Almost 70 percent of white students were proficient in both reading and math, while roughly a third of black students met the threshold. Those figures are “virtually unchanged” from the prior year.
The results come despite efforts by state and local education officials to incorporate a “restorative justice” approach to school discipline promoted by the Obama administration as a means of reducing the disproportionate number of black students suspended from school. The race-based approach to school discipline, which is rooted in the belief that school rules were designed to benefit those with “white privilege,” is purportedly designed to keep more minority students in the classroom and help close the achievement gap with their white peers.
The Minnesota Department of Education promotes the restorative justice approach on its website, and many of the state’s school districts, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, incorporate the model, which is based on the white supremacy perspective on society.
In school districts across the country using restorative justice, teachers are speaking out to highlight their classrooms of chaos, as students who assault others, deal drugs, swear and spit are simply returned to the classroom with no real repercussions.
Students realize they won’t be suspended, and are lashing out with impunity, EAGnews reports.
In the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts – the state’s largest – the restorative justice approach has made no impact on academic achievement, and may have made things worse.
MPR reports that the achievement gap in reading “widened slightly” over last year, while math scores were about the same.
Student scores in Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the worst.
“In the Minneapolis Public School District only 47 percent of students were proficient in math, 12 points lower than statewide, and 23 points lower than in 2013. In reading, Minneapolis had less than half the statewide percentage of proficient students, at under 30 percent, while in science proficiency statewide was 55 percent, while in Minneapolis it was about 32,” according to Alpha News.
“Things were just as bad or worse for the St. Paul Public School District, as only 39 percent of students met expectations in reading compared to 60 percent statewide. Only 37 percent of students met expectations in math, and 32 percent met the mark in science.”
“Clearly we are encouraged by the fact that we did see gains in reading and science, but honestly we are disappointed in the incremental change that we’re making,” St. Paul schools CEO Michelle Walker told MPR. “I have a lot of concern about the number of our students who are not proficient.”
State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, of course, blamed the widening achievement gap on factors outside of her department’s control.
“Closing achievement gaps is possible, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that we cannot do it alone. The only way we will close these stubborn gaps is if we address with equal urgency the opportunity gaps outside of school that impact children’s likelihood of school success,” she said in a prepared statement. “That means paying attention to and supporting families from birth, ensuring they have access to high-quality childcare and early education, stable housing, economic opportunity, fair wages that support families and health care when they need it.”
Aside from problems with the achievement gap, state officials are also concerned about an increasing number of parents opting their children out of standardized tests.
According to the statement:
A closer look at the high school results show a steep increase in the number of parents opting their students out of taking the state assessments. This spring 2,227 11th graders were opted out of taking the math MCA, up from 694 last year. In 2013, only 19 students were opted out of the grade 11 math test statewide. In reading, 1,404 students were opted out this spring, compared to 763 in 2015 and only 11 in 2013. Schools currently only have a method for reporting formal parental opt-outs. These numbers do not include student refusals, which will be counted beginning in 2017.