Pact to Help Minneapolis Black Students Falters

Emily Johns, Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul), March 3, 2010

The “Covenant,” a pact intended to close the enormous achievement gap between black and white students in Minneapolis public schools, may be falling apart.

Disagreements over how to proceed and the resentments of some black participants who feel shut out of the process have festered. In January, a meeting about the agreement devolved into shouting as children were ushered out.

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The only thing everybody agrees on is that the performance of black students in the district is a “tragedy,” said Kinshasha Kambui, a former aide to Mayor R.T. Rybak and a community activist who signed the agreement.

Only 34 percent of the district’s black students graduate from high school in four years, compared with almost 70 percent of whites, according to state figures. Last year, only 8.6 percent of black students were proficient on state science tests, compared with 61.4 percent of white students.

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The 2008 Covenant says that the city’s schools and black families “must commit to working with a deliberate focus on African-American students in order to overcome a legacy of educational inequity.” It focuses on teacher training, school stability and keeping track of what works.

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The Covenant was seen as a hopeful sign that resolve might finally be high enough to turn the tide of failure. But for some, resolve has turned to recrimination.

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One district ally said some community members are angry because the district might not implement a $700,000 behavior-management program run by Covenant advocate Titilayo Bediako.

Black parents have long distrusted the Minneapolis public schools.

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