St. Paul Schools’ Diversity Efforts Have Not Solved Achievement Gap

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – The sometimes controversial policies of former St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valerie Silva are still being felt, even as contracts with certain consultants come to a close this year.

More than 4,000 staff members in the district have gone through Beyond Diversity, a two day training developed by Pacific Educational Group (PEG) reports the Pioneer Press. The St. Paul school district first hired PEG in 2010 with the goal of targeting the achievement gap between white and minority students by attempting to change the attitudes of the district’s 82 percent white teaching staff. Only 21 percent of the district’s students are white.

While the consulting contract will end this year, the school district still plans to license PEG’s materials for the Beyond Diversity training, at a cost of $40,000 per year according to the Pioneer Press. District employees will now be leading the training, rather than PEG staff.

In spite of this training, and the school board’s 2013 declaration that “institutional racism” was at fault for the achievement gap, St. Paul schools have made no progress in resolving the disparity since Silva made it the forefront of her administration.

While graduation rates have ticked up slightly, no measurable progress has been made in terms of the number of suspensions, absences, or referrals for special education programs. Minority students make up a disproportionate amount of all three of these issues reports the Pioneer Press.

In addition, test scores have actually fallen backwards. While 24 percent of black students in the St. Paul school system scored proficient or better on state exams in the spring of 2011, only 18 percent met that mark this past spring, reports the Pioneer Press. For white students, those numbers were 68 percent and 66 percent respectively. That means the achievement gap has actually grown by four percent since Silva took office and started to implement her diversity programs.

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