Dear Colleagues of SciMath and ITEC:
I am writing to you to sound a rally call. Minn State is launching a campaign called Equity 2030, which aims at eliminating the achievement gap at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities by 2030.
This is no easy task. For example, suppose there is a course with a passing rate of 80% for the white students and 60% for the student of color. Using an exponential growth model, to bring the 60% passing rate up to 80% in 10 years, the students of color need to perform 3% better than the previous year for 10 straight years, assuming that the passing rate is fixed at 80% for the white students.
On the other hand, Minnesota has had little/no success at closing the gap: the State has worked on it for the last two and half decades only to see the gap grow to one of the largest in the nation. Let's face it: despite all the great effort, Minnesota educators are not very good at teaching students of color, or the underprepared students in general. I am no exception: I have much to learn in the area, as a teacher and as an administrator.
Here are what I think we should do as individuals and as a team.
Keep searching for ways to teach underprepared students. Emergency room doctors don't refuse to treat smokers or alcohol/drug abusers, who are the most vulnerable and who need help most. As educators we also cannot abandon our weakest students. When students and their challenges evolve, so should we the educators. Let's continue to ask:
Continue to innovate. Let's look into new ideas as well as older but good ones that were not given a chance in the past. Let's try out good practices you learn from colleagues elsewhere or from professional associations. I will reach out not just to the Minn State System but also to successful inner-city colleges and HBCU around the nation for their best practices in educating students of color.
Take on the challenge and seize the opportunity. In the Chinese language, crises are called risky opportunities "危機". The achievement gap is a risky opportunity for our school. It is a risk because of its severe negative impact on an important portion of our students, but we also have an opportunity to turn things around. With a systemwide initiative, we might be able to get additional support or help. And if some of our peers in the College or the System choose to act passively or not at all, we would also seize the opportunity to take the lead in doing something great for our students.
Everyone in SciMath and ITEC has a great deal of professional and intellectual excellence, and we did not come this far in our careers just to be an ordinary college that can't handle students of color. The Minneapolis College is Minnesota's most diverse higher education institution, and we fulfill a unique role in serving a unique student body. Please join me in this important initiative for our students and for our college.
Dr. Ben Weng