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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Racial Achievement Gap Wide in Davis

The Davis Enterprise reported last night that while students in Davis overall performed very well on the Academic Performance Index, there was also a very wide gap between the highest group Asians and white/ non-Hispanic, and blacks and Hispanics.
Davis students from an Asian background scored highest as a group, with a 934 API. White (non-Hispanic) students in Davis score 884, African-American students scored 758 and Hispanic/Latino students scored 721.

This makes for a gap of more than 210 points between the highest scoring ethnic subgroup and the lowest. Those figures undoubtedly will be discussed by the Davis district's new Achievement Gap Task Force, which was formed several months ago and is now meeting regularly.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged students in Davis scored 707, while students with disabilities scored 668.
However there is some good news in these figures:
“All our other subgroups demonstrate gains,” [Clark] Bryant [director of curriculum and instruction for the Davis school district] said, “with the largest gains being among our English learners (26 points) and our students with disabilities (23 points).”
What this appears to demonstrate is that many of the programs in Davis are indeed working. Parents at Valley Oak Elementary school have cited the success of the English Learner's program as a reason for the school to remain open despite other data that suggested perhaps a decline in enrollment. The suggestion was the school district should not close down a successful school and concern was expressed by both parents and teachers that in fact the program would be disrupted if moved from one location to another.

On the other side of the argument, several members of the board and administrators suggested that the programs could be relocated without disruption to the students. That the district needed to use its resources to continue its successful programs to benefit all students.

To me this continues to demonstrate the vulnerability of students both from disadvantaged and racial minority backgrounds In Davis there is a considerable gap between the achievement of white and Asian students and those of black and Hispanic students. Because of the commitment by the school district that gap lowered over the past year, but it remains unacceptably high for a city and district as well off as this one.

On a statewide basis, Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction was alarmed by this racial divide.
“I am deeply concerned that significant gaps exist between the API results for different subgroups of students,” he said in a news release. “I have begun an intensive effort to find ways to close the gap that exists between successful students who are often white or Asian, and financially well off, and struggling students who are too often poor, Hispanic, African American, English learners or with a disability... As a state, we have a moral, ethical and economic obligation to address the needs of every group of students.”
It is very clear to me that we must continue our commitment in public education to closing this gap for the very reasons cited by Mr. O'Connell.

Education is the solution to many of our social problems of inequality and poverty. It leads students to a better life when they are successful, but unfortunately education is not performed in a vacuum and we need to do what we can to help those students who are most vulnerable and of the greatest need. That perhaps was the saddest part of what happened last week with Valley Oak--that those students had what appeared to be a value asset and tool taken away from them.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting