Patrick Henry’s new name won’t help their reading scores

Renaming schools is another example of the Minnesota education cartel being more concerned with inputs than outputs. The name of a school is an input. The color of a teacher is an input. Teacher pay is an input. The entire equity and diversity movement is based on inputs.

Test scores are outputs. Grades are outputs. Graduation rates are outputs (as long as they’re not watered down). Minnesota’s persistent achievement gap between white students and students of color is today’s most important output.

But not if you’re on the Minneapolis School Board. The most important issue in Minneapolis is that one of their schools is named after a guy who once owned slaves, at a time in world history when many people owned slaves. It’s not even worth trying to explain historical context to these zealots. Anything Patrick Henry might have contributed to the founding of the greatest country in the history of the world will be lost on them because he owned slaves.

Here’s an alternative proposal: let’s remove the names from all schools in Minnesota where more than 50% of the current students can’t read at grade level. Once their reading scores improve, the school can come up with a new name. Until then, we can refer to the schools using a new naming convention called CR, which stands for Can’t Read. So CR1, CR2, CR3 — that would be the name of most schools in Minneapolis.

Every day when students and staff show up, they would be reminded of their current status. Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but maybe that’s what it will take to get school board members, principals, teachers, parents and students to focus on what’s important.

Naming schools as not performing used to be part of the Minnesota school accountability system originally established in 2003. While conservatives and liberals both criticized the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, its major achievement was exposing achievement gaps in states like Minnesota that previously relied on test score averages to hide the persistent underperformance of minority groups.

Minnesota responded to NCLB by putting in place a robust school accountability system that rated schools on the performance of all students and disaggregated the data so averages propped up by white students would be exposed. The education cartel, led by the teachers’ union, hated this accountability and it was removed or watered down as soon as their allies in the Democratic Party returned to power.

Twenty years after NCLB the focus in Minneapolis is on Patrick Henry owning slaves instead of whether the descendants of those slaves can read at grade level. The soft bigotry of low expectations indeed.