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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Scores slip after ‘equity’ focus

“Racial equity” became the priority in Edina Public Schools (EPS), an affluent Minneapolis suburb, in  2013. Test scores are falling, writes Katherine Kersten, senior policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, in the Star Tribune. (Thinking Minnesota has a longer version.)

Until recently, Edina was one of the top-scoring districts in Minnesota. Now, 30 percent of students are not “on track for success” in reading; the rate is similar for math. At Cornelia Elementary, where half of students are non-white, reading and math proficiency has dropped for black, Hispanic, multi-racial and low-income students.

The district’s “All for All” plan called for hiring “racially conscious teachers and administrators,” writes Kersten. Students must “acquire an awareness of their own cultural identity and value racial, cultural and ethnic diversities.” This means that “children will now be instructed that their personal, cultural ‘identity’ is irrevocably tied to their skin color.”

At Highlands Elementary School, Principal Katie Mahoney is teaching children “how to embrace ancestry, genetic code and melanin,” and to how “to be changemakers.”

Work on the first goal began last year with the “Melanin Project.” The school’s youngest students (K-2) traced their hands, colored them with their skin color, and made a poster reading “Stop thinking your skin color is better than everyone elses [sic]. Everyone is Special!”

On the school’s blog, Mahoney has  featured a book entitled A is for Activist. “C is for … Creative Counter to Corporate vultures,” notes Kersten. “F is for Feminist,” “T is for Trans,” and “X is” for “Malcolm X.”

Cornelia Elementary School adopted a “social justice” curriculum. In addition, Principal Lisa Masica ended the policy of grouping low achievers in small groups for an hour of intensive instruction, possibly because the extra-help groups had disproportionate numbers of blacks and Hispanics.

Unfortunately, from 2015-17, the reading proficiency of Cornelia’s students who are black, Hispanic, and of two or more races dropped from 58 percent to 34 percent on the state’s MCA-III tests. The math proficiency rate of black, Hispanic and students of two or more races dropped from 51.5 percent to 38 percent. Low-income students fell from 51 percent to 41 percent.

Is this social justice?

At Edina High School, students have complained that conservative views aren’t tolerated, writes Kersten. The school’s 10th-grade English course should be renamed “Why white males are bad, and how oppressive they are,” wrote a student on the Rate My Professor site.

On Aug. 24, 2017, Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,  wrote to the chair of the Edina school board about teachers’ “discrimination” against and “bullying” of students “with different political beliefs,” reports Kersten.

EPS Superintendent John Schultz replied on Sept. 21 that “the district has invited a team of attorneys to conduct training on employee and student free speech rights and limitations.”

In response to Kerstein’s commentary, the Star-Trib printed Why it’s crucial for today’s students to unlearn racism by Annie Mogush Mason, Program Director of Elementary Teacher Education at the University of Minnesota, and To this white male, there’s no ‘culture of intimidation’ at Edina High School by junior Charles Heinecke. Kersten replied here.

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