In “We must weed out Minnesota’s lousiest charter schools” (Oct. 18), Neel Kashkari details the research initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, of which he is president. Called the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute, its mission is to “conduct research to inform policies that will improve the economic well-being of all Americans.”

Kashkari goes on to highlight the fact that many charter schools in Minnesota underperform and that we are allowing them to keep operating in spite of this.

Conversely, he points out that we indeed do have some exceptionally great charter schools, such as the Hiawatha Academies in south Minneapolis. And we learn from the article that “parents aren’t flocking” to such schools. “The highest-performing charters tend to have unused capacity.”

Kashkari advocates that Minnesota “rigorously and dispassionately assess charter school performance.” Such information would be used to shut down poor performers and give parents tools to search for the best schools.

Great idea. I agree with everything he says. But we need to go deeper than just performance. We need to find the reasons for poor (and great) performance, not only at charter schools, but at all schools.

As a former teacher, I know firsthand the most important factor in determining a student’s success: families.

I am sure the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has the capability to study such things as parental involvement in the schools and their children’s lives in general, as well as stable environments in the home — which include quiet study spaces, proper nutrition and proper rest — among other things.

We can and should shut down poor performing schools. But how about finding the cause and effect for poor performance?

Do we have the courage to look at the most basic issues, or will Minnesota Nice prevail and mask the overwhelming fact that the most important determining factor in a child’s success is parental influence?

I hope we will face these realities. Everything else is a waste of time and resources, and will not lead to the “economic well-being” of anyone.

Teachers and schools cannot help children academically if there is poor support at home.

Mr. Kashkari: Your assignment is to use your resources to uncover and then address any cause-and-effect relationship between family stability and academic performance within each school.

As with any test — be sure you study the right things.


Dale Vaillancourt lives in Burnsville.