Monday, December 10, 2012

School Board Meeting this week: Achievement of African-American Students

Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith at "2020 in Action" photo courtesy of Berkeleyside

This Wednesday marks the final BUSD school board meeting for 2012. Judy Appel, our newest school board member, will be sworn in. The topic that most interests me can be found on pages 52-53 of the packet for the meeting. There is a memo from Co-Superintendents Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith to the Board of Education on a Plan to Accelerate the Achievement of African-American Students.

Here is an excerpt: (Emphasis has been added)
"(A)ll groups of students, including English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities, as well as all ethnic and racial groups, demonstrated improved performance on the 2012 California Standards Tests, with African- American students demonstrating greater gains than any other group at both the elementary and middle schools. However, even at our high performing schools, the African-American student group is the lowest performing group. Staff is proposing a more targeted and aggressive plan to address the plight of African-American students (and, in particular, the needs of African-American boys). 
"A Work Group of BUSD staff and community representatives will be convened in order to develop a district-wide plan to accelerate the achievement of African-American students. The need for this plan is based on the persistent gaps in attendance, truancy, suspensions and expulsions, health, court involvement, employment, and other measures of general well-being...
"The development of the plan is expected to take approximately three months (January-March 2013) and include an analysis of multiple forms of data, the identification of root causes of low achievement, and the development of a multi-year action plan...
"...The final phase of this process will include the creation of a draft plan which will be shared with key parent and community groups in Berkeley in order to solicit feedback. Feedback will be incorporated into a final version of the plan to be approved by the board in April 2013."
You can download the full packet, along with all other School Board Meeting agendas, materials and updates (which include video links to previous board meetings) here.  

I am thrilled to see that addressing the needs of our African American students remains a priority for our district. As I discussed in an earlier post on the Achievement Gap, African American students in Berkeley are performing 142 points BELOW the state target of 800 on the API (Academic Performance Index, which measures performance on statewide tests), while white students in Berkeley are performing 122 points ABOVE the state target of 800.  

It will take critical analysis, creative thinking and strong collaboration to provide all students in our district with the same opportunity to succeed. It won't be easy, but it's our moral imperative. I give huge credit to Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith for putting this before the board. We're moving in the right direction.

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