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California group helps St. Paul schools confront achievement gap

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The St. Paul School District will continue to work with a San Francisco-based consultant to help narrow the achievement gap between its white and minority students, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Pacific Educational Group (PEG) has been working with St. Paul schools for the past three years.

The principal at St. Paul's Frost Lake Elementary tells the paper her school has created an "equity team" to address the issue of achievement disparities by having educators confront their own racial biases and the ways racism affects schools.

Stacey Kadrmas says the administration is asking their staff members to change, "rather than expect kids to change to fit our comfort level -- and that's huge."

Some of the policy changes include reduced suspensions and the integration of students with intensive special needs into mainstream classrooms.

The Pioneer Press says PEG's work has alienated some educators. Critics say some discipline issues have been recast as cultural misunderstandings, and as a result, disruptive students and families are not being held accountable.

So far, about 90 St. Paul schools staff members have taken the two-day PEG "Beyond Diversity" seminar, which asks them to have "courageous conversations" about race. The Pioneer Press says that the district wants all of its roughly 6,000 employees, including janitors and bus drivers, to take the "Beyond Diversity" seminar by 2015.

The St. Paul School Board earlier this month voted 6-1 to enter into a $380,000 agreement with PEG for the 2013-14 school year, the Star Tribune reports.

The district has already paid PEG $850,000 for their consulting services over the past three years.

Meanwhile, 27 Minnesota schools, most in the Twin Cities, are showing major signs of improvement, according to a ratings system that replaced the No Child Left Behind initiative two years ago.

Minnesota’s Multiple Measurement Ratings judge schools on how well they’re addressing the achievement gap, graduation rates and proficiency -- not just on math, reading and science test results like No Child Left Behind.

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