Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Email to the TUSD Board Re: Achievement Gaps, Research, and a Plea to Stop the Excuses

Good Afternoon Dr. Trujillo, Mr. Ross, and Board Members (BCC'd),

Ms. Grijalva and Ms. Foster asked for information in response to my claim on 1/16 that schools across the United States have closed the achievement gap by up to 25%.  Please find that information below.  

Now maybe we can all agree that it is not only possible, it is our duty to work to close the TUSD achievement gap.  It follows that it is a good idea for us to ask our Supt. to take responsibility for closing the gap and for differentiating among high and low performing students in schools across TUSD (using RTI, MTSS, etc) in order to begin closing the achievement gap.  

Please also note that we discussed the matter of educational achievement as a main goal of the deseg order specifically at the last deseg budget meeting. [confidential information redacted].  That said, I do not believe a court order should be necessary to inspire us to work to close the achievement gap/s in TUSD.  Not only is it possible--contrary to the claims of the uninformed--it is our responsibility to make sure it happens.  Our students deserve it.  They deserve our faith and support, not our excuses for why they underperform students across the state.

Here are some articles.  They often cite other research.  I encourage you to read it all. ("Over [a] 25-year period, the achievement gaps in math and reading in fourth and eighth grade have declined 15 to 25 percent, depending on the grade, subject, or group. These gaps have not closed because white performance has declined: To the contrary, average academic performance improved for all racial and ethnic groups, although it grew fastest among black and Hispanic students. In particular, the average test scores among black and Hispanic students improved by one-third of a standard deviation in reading and two-thirds of a standard deviation in math since 1990. As shown in Figure 1, these greater improvements among black and Hispanic children led to narrowing achievement gaps, particularly during the last 15 to 20 years. Similar trends are evident in high school graduation rates: white-black and white-Hispanic graduation rate gaps have narrowed sharply over the last two decades.") (Emphasis added.) ("Probably the most common thing heard from the educators in these schools is 'There is no magic bullet.' Rather, they have all developed complex approaches to the complicated task of educating all students. But there is one thing they do share: the deeply rooted belief that all their students not only can learn but will learn—and that it is up to the adults in the building to figure out how to make sure of that.")(Emphasis added). ("The problem is not that we don't know how to improve the lives of our children. The problem is that we're not doing it. Research has increasingly shown us what works, when it works, and where to focus our efforts. Leaders at the federal, state, and local levels should pursue a serious opportunity agenda that draws on the evidedce and promise that can help us guide at-risk children toward a better future.")(Emphasis added.) and ("The same pattern holds true among school districts within states, among schools within districts, and among classrooms within schools. Indeed, the OECD finds that the variation within US schools in 2006 was 2.6 times greater than the variation across them, confirming research by McKinsey and others that consistent, high-quality teaching is a key factor determining student achievement. Moreover, international experience confirms that it is possible to make progress in closing these gaps: not only have two dozen countries made substantial progress in overall achievement, but 17 countries that exceed US performance levels also have a narrower gap among children of divergent socioeconomic backgrounds.")(Emphasis added.) ("Our public schools are based on an outmoded system that was not designed to ensure the success of the wide diversity of students that are currently enrolled. We must examine the systems in which our districts, schools and classrooms operate and ask what the systems themselves are doing to close the achievement gap for African American students.")(Emphasis added.) ("Our findings indicate that policymakers should pay much closer attention to the practices of individual schools rather than concentrating exclusively on policies and interventions typically enacted at the district level. Moreover, the cross-school differences in the relative success of advantaged and disadvantaged students argue for enacting school accountability policies that shine the light on the success of specific populations, rather than concentrating solely on overall schoolwide performance levels or gains.")(Emphasis added.)

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