The Achievement Gap Committee - Moving On
For more than fifty years, first as a United States Congressman, then as the mayor of Minneapolis, and finally as a private citizen Don Fraser has been concerned that all the children of Minnesota have an equal opportunity for successful lives.
Throughout that time, one of the known symptoms of ongoing inequality was children’s success in school: children of color, children of poverty, minority children in general fell further behind their white middle-class peers every year. The gap in their scholastic achievement increased as they grew older.
A little over ten years ago Don and a number of other civic leaders established a group called the Achievement Gap Committee. Its threefold mission was to raise public awareness of this gap, to provoke rational analysis of the gap’s many causes, and to highlight teachers and schools who were showing some success in reducing the gap.
By hosting monthly forums (more than a hundred) featuring recognized leaders and attended by other recognized leaders and concerned citizens, the Committee did, indeed, raise public awareness of the issue, its causes, and some possible solutions.
The gap is no longer considered either inevitable or insoluble, and the focus of today’s organizations is on funding recognized solutions. As a result, over the last two years our forums have seen a large decrease in attendance; this tells us that we have done what we could in pursuit of our mission and that it is time to move on.
It has also become clear that the best solution to the gap is to avoid it in the first place rather than to remediate it later (though that, also, is necessary), and that programs focusing on very early childhood, toxic stress reduction, and familial involvement should become a fully-funded part of public education.
Grant Abbott, one of our convenors, has spent several months talking to and working with organizations who are pressing the legislature to fund these initiatives. He (and we) had hoped to find a place where the Committee could play a useful role; but the lobbying and jockeying for position and funding among the many stakeholders is an activity for which we all feel we are poorly suited.
Somebody once said that knowing when to quit is the mark of a wise person or a good artist. And hoping to be seen as one or the other, we are ending our active role in addressing the achievement gap. Our web site has dozens of videos of our more recent forums, and it will continue to host those.
We would like to thank the former members of the Committee and those community leaders who provided support, ideas, and encouragement through the years. But we would like especially to thank Don Fraser whose vision and ongoing commitment brought the Committee into being and continually challenged it to try to make a difference for all children.