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Task force about achievement gap

Published (3/7/2008)
By Thomas Hammell
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Headed to the floor is a bill that would establish a state task force to deal with disparities in the academic performance of student groups based on race, ethnicity and income.

Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), HF3472 would encourage school districts experiencing academic achievement differences to create a plan and budget to deal with the problem. The plan would be submitted to the education commissioner for review, and it would then be sent to an advisory task force on improving students’ academic achievement. The findings would be reported to the Legislature.

The bill was approved March 4 by the House E-12 Education Committee.

Mariani said one of the early goals of federal No Child Left Behind legislation was to eliminate racial disparities.

“As members know, the devil is in the details of everything we do,” he said.

Stan Mack, superintendent of Robbinsdale Area Schools, said that, in eight years, the district has changed to have 44 percent students of color and 1,800 English language learners.

“We are pleased that the state has a direction of focus on this issue, because in those same eight years the amount of federal funding has actually dropped,” he said.

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said the task force would create redundancy in the Department of Education.

“In the end, when we get to the aggregate in terms of outcomes, we continue to have a persistent, unacceptable difference in outcome,” Mariani said.

A companion bill, SF3151, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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