Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice claim that the report Our Immense Achievement Gap: Embracing Proven Remedies While Avoiding a Race-Based Recipe for Disaster, by Katherine Kersten, has been debunked by their Think Twice think tank review project. The report concluded that Minnesota should follow Florida’s reforms that have led to it being one of only three states recognized by the US Department of Education for progress in significantly narrowing the racial and ethnic achievement gap.
The review was conducted by Susan Eaton, Research Director of Charles Hamilton Institute at Harvard University, and was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from Great Lakes. Eaton found that the report misrepresented recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education, a think tank and two independent study groups. These groups had recently encouraged voluntary efforts to reduce poverty and achieve higher levels of socioeconomic and racial integration within the housing and school system in Minnesota. Eaton claims that after setting up the two straw men of ‘busing’ and ‘lawsuits’, neither of which was actually recommended by any of the organizations involved, the report then proceeded to use these straw men to criticize the original recommendations.
The author relies heavily on selected research literature to make its arguments but ignores dozens of the most important peer-reviewed research studies that suggest strong relationships between racial, ethnic, economic diversity/desegregation and academic gains, Eaton finds. The report also relies heavily on anecdotes about desegregation policies and funding-equalization efforts in several states.
Eaton writes that the report endorses accountability-based reforms, such as those in Florida, without investigating them. The review suggests that claims of success in Florida regarding accountability measures and teacher accreditation policies are exaggerated or unsubstantiated.
In attacking the wrong targets, Eaton concludes, the report distracts rather than focuses the attention of policymakers seeking to close the achievement gap.