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History of the Achievement Gap Forums

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.

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In June 2012, Think Again MN launched a history series that examines politics and policy-making in Minnesota during the last century from the immediate post World War II years up through the 1990s. That era witnessed fierce legislative battles at the State Capitol but it was also a time of shared values that cut across partisan lines. 

Read about it here

MN's Leading Election System

MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon

 

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Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at http://mnvotes.org

Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

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