The failure to educate inner city youth is the greatest social injustice of our day. Recent films like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman document the extent of this failure.
Shamefully, the state of Minnesota leads the nation in the size of the achievement gap between white students and students of color. Today, Minneapolis is home to 24,000 African-American, Native, and Hispanic youth under the age of 18. Based on current results in our school system, more than 80% of these kids — more than 20,000 — will never read beyond the 8th grade level — condemned to the margins of an information economy, whether they graduate or not.
In addressing this crisis, some leaders are suggesting more money will stem the crisis. Yet, per pupil spending in U.S. public schools has increased by 123% since 1971. Over that same time, the reading scores of high school students have not improved at all. In fact, the most recent data shows that only 12% of African-American 4th grade boys read at grade level.
Others suggest that restructuring is the solution. Charter schools, for example, are free of many constraints of public schools. Though some show promise—nationally only 17% of charter school students outperform students in surrounding public schools. Charter schools are similar to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Avoiding the iceberg requires a sharper change in direction.
For per pupil spending and charter school results see Time Magazine, Sept. 20, 2010. On test results, see “Test Scores Reveal Wide Achievement Gap for Black Male Students,” New York Times, November 9, 2010.