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In the last three years, the Elk Grove Unified School District staff and students have intensified their work in closing the achievement gap. The term “achievement gap” refers the performance gaps that exist between African American and Hispanic students and their non-Hispanic white peers. It is most commonly measured in standardized test scores and drop-out rates. At Elk Grove Unified School District, this work is an integral part of academics, teaching and learning.
In November of last year, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell hosted an achievement gap summit in Sacramento. More than 4,000 board members, educators and parents attended the two-day event, including a large contingent from Elk Grove Unified. At the summit we shared best practices and engaged in conversations about solutions to remove barriers so that all students can share in academic success.
At Elk Grove Unified we believe that closing the achievement gap, in part, requires an open dialogue with staff, parents and students. Glenn Singleton, an expert in this area and a speaker at EGUSD, calls this dialogue “courageous conversations.” This not only means conversations among staff and teachers, but also conversations among students and parents. One example of how this is taking place in our district is the Concerned African American Parents group at Laguna Creek High School. This group began with a small number of parents who were concerned about the disparity in the academic indicators between African American students and other subgroups. These parents have taken it upon themselves to engage as partners in the important work and invite other parents to join the conversation, sharing in the work needed to close the achievement gap.
These courageous conversations also regularly take place among staff. To better support our schools in closing the achievement gap, at Elk Grove Unified we have convened an Achievement Gap Committee to identify processes and practices that have shown promise in closing the gap. In addition, the District’s professional learning program focuses on cultural competency, diversity and the achievement gap. Experts in these areas, such as Dr. Edwin Javius, Rosalyn Taylor O’Neal and Dr. Sharroky Hollie have presented or will speak to EGUSD teachers and administrators to provide ideas and information to guide the work that we do at school sites and in the classroom.
The district has implemented a number of programs that help staff in closing the gap. One example is the mid-year progress tests for students. The results enable teachers to assess areas in which individual students need support. Another example includes administrative mentoring site support teams. Team members help teachers discover new ways in which to engage students and enrich their classrooms. Schools also use Collaborative Academic Support Teams (CAST). These teams of teachers and administrators work throughout the year to monitor and mentor students so that they can enjoy both academic and social success. At all our schools we continuously seek ways to further enrich the classroom experience through cultural competency and understanding.
These are just a few of the tools we have in place. On a daily basis, Elk Grove Unified School District staff work towards closing the achievement gap, knowing each student by name and need. Together we can make a difference.
Steven M. Ladd, Ed.D.
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