Once a kid growing up in a welfare family and now a professional educator, M. Donnell Tenner knows firsthand the limitations of the educational system.
Tenner, an African-American, said he has seen how there is an achievement gap between blacks and Latinos and Caucasian students. The 41-year-old Roseville man is now on a mission to rectify that problem.
Tenner, whose career has included stints serving an elmentary and middle school principal, has penned a self-published book called "240 Ways to Close the Achievement Gap."
"I am passionate about closing the achievement gap for all children," said Tenner, an ex-Canadian football player who has been in education for the last 14 years. (Tenner said he is currently working on a doctoral degree at St. Mary's University and is looking for an administrative position in a small school district.)
That there is an educational achievement gap between white students and those who are blacks and Latino is documented. Forteen months ago, the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCan) released an analysis of Minnesota’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores.
MinnCan said that showed although Minnesota leads the nation in math achievement, "the state’s achievement gap remains exceptionally large compared to other states, particularly in racial and income subgroups."
MinnCan said its analysis shows that:
- "African American students in fourth and eighth grades are more than three grade levels behind white students in math.
- "African American students in fourth and eighth grades are more than two grade levels behind whites in reading" and
- In all grade levels, low-income students are more than two grade levels behind their wealthier peers."
Tenner contends the achievement gap is partly the result of a breakdown of community, where often parents are too protective of their children and unwilling to accept the involvement of neighbors and other people to hold kids accountability for their behavior.
For example, many kids have no reluctance about swearing in front of or at adults, Tenner said. "There is a lack of respect for adults."
Tenner believes another problem: Not enough focus on educational basics. "Kids can text and do pictures but can't read or write," he said.
Another problem, Tenner contended, is that too many teachers are unprepared to work with minority students. They need to have mentors to help them, he said.
"We need to teach how to build productive relatioships with these kids" Tenner said. "Only after this can true learning take place."
Meanwhile, Tenner said one version of his book is geared towards general readers while another is aimed at teachers only, offering them best practices for closing the achievement gap. A third version of the book is geared towards administrators and other educational leaders.
"The achievement gap is not about race but the haves and have nots" Tenner contended in a Patch interview. "I believe in young people. I believe that they can have the American dream and live life more abundantly with the right programs and guidance."
Tenner said that while there has been a plethora of media coverage abourt the achievement gap, few solutions have been tried, and even fewer have succeeded.
Tenner said he has 240 practical steps to close the achievement gap for black and Latino students, the first book of its kind. He sharing many of those ideas in as a blogger for Patch.
To order Tenner's book:
Tenner said you can order his book by contacting him at his firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $10 per copy.
About M. Donnell Tenner
A motivational speaker, author, and educational consultant on inner-city youth; Tenner's professional experiences include work as a basketball coach, law enforcement officer, professional football player, and K-12 education administrator. He has worked in schools in the Twin Cities as well as Illinois.