School Board discusses achievement gap solutions

    Board Meeting 10/27 Melissa Caswell

    School board president Melissa Caswell speaks at the Palo Alto Board of Education meeting on Oct. 27. The board addressed issues of the achievement gap of historically underrepresented racial group students and Palo Alto demographics of ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement exam scores. Photo by Sherwin Amsbaugh.

    The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education plans to take action to improve school climate and decrease the achievement gap of historically underrepresented racial groups within the school district.

    At the board meeting on Oct. 27, members looked over the High School Measures Report which includes college readiness metrics such as ACT scores, SAT scores and Advanced Placement exam scores. The data points revealed that historically underrepresented racial group students at Palo Alto high schools score significantly lower than those of Caucasian or Asian ethnicity.

    “Increasing achievement for underrepresented minorities is a high priority,” board member Ken Dauber said. “But we need to do more, including improving how well curriculum and teaching meets the needs of all students and examining how well laning is supporting students in increasing achievement.”

    The Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee, created earlier this year, is working with elementary schools to combat the issues of struggling students as early as kindergarten and first grade. MATD is providing increased access to support resources for students and their parents, according to Judy Argumedo, the PAUSD director of Academic Supports

    In addition to establishing the MATD committee, the school board members also implemented early literacy and math after school programs for non-native English speakers at the Hoover and Fairmeadow elementary schools in order to help students catch up at an early age.

    “I’ve talked to a lot of historically underrepresented racial group parents whose kids are struggling in math,” school board president Melissa Caswell said. “I believe that if you wait until middle school, you’ll never be able to catch up.”

    The board members also discussed the necessity of changing the overall climate surrounding Advanced Placement courses. The board emphasized the importance of encouraging all students to take advanced classes and providing them with access to a more rich education through these courses.

    “Some kids in our district may feel intimidated by the APs, thinking that they are only for a select group,” board member Camille Townsend said. “This should become a continual focus that our that kids take at least one AP class, so they gain confidence in themselves.”

    Caswell emphasized that the board will be focusing on improving the quality of education across all the schools within the district.

    “We need to ask [ourselves], ‘Are we providing advanced topics to enough of our kids?’” Caswell said.

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