When I first landed in San Diego in fall 2013, the first San Diego Unified school board member I met was Scott Barnett.

Barnett, who left the board in 2014, was impolitic, always quotable and often right. And he told me something that day that has stuck with me: San Diegans, he said, are great at making plans, having lunches and creating task forces. They’re just terrible at actually getting anything done.

Learning Curve 2016-01 (2)This comment is maybe most fitting when we apply it to the achievement gap.

Year after year, district officials point out that black and Latino students perform worse on tests than their white and Asian peers. And, year after, officials pledge to tackle the problem with tenacity and laser focus. (“Laser focus” has been an especially popular slogan for current school board members.)

But, despite the pattern of commitments and recommitments, actual progress has been marginal.

Let’s take a 10-year view of just one data point. In 2003, just 16 percent of black 11th graders in San Diego Unified scored proficient or advanced on the high school math section of the California Standards Test. In 2013, that number was the same – 16 percent.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

By contrast, 42 percent of white 11th graders scored proficient or higher in 2003. By 2013, that number had risen to 53 percent.

These numbers form just a partial glimpse at an issue that has vexed school district leaders for 50 years. Whether we look at test scores, students enrolled in AP classes or the number of students who graduate prepared to enter college, a gap between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers persists.

Around 2009, Wendell Bass, a retired principal and then-president of the Association of African American Educators, helped create a plan to reach more black students who were falling behind. Bass and AAAE took a proposal to the school board, who liked the idea. A task force was created, and a plan was later adopted by the school district.

The plan was given a stately title: The Blueprint to Accelerate the Achievement of African American and African Students. (A similar plan with a different name was created in the ‘80s).

The plan includes an extensive list of recommendations, including things like hiring more teachers of color, improving graduation rates and conducting more professional development for teachers, so they’re better equipped to teach in high-need schools.

Question: What’s the status of the Blueprint to Accelerate the Achievement of African American Students? – Omar Passons, interested reader, community member

There’s a short answer to this: The blueprint still exists and the district is still trying to implement it. The longer answer involves fleshing out why progress has stalled.

On Monday night, parents, teachers and district officials crammed into the parent center at Lincoln High for one of the regularly scheduled task force meetings the district holds to get to business on the blueprint.

A handful of principals from schools in the Lincoln Cluster – which includes the middle and elementary schools that feed into Lincoln – presented some of the work they’ve been doing at their schools. Oak Park Elementary principal Reashon Villery, for example, talked about the way they observe students interacting in class and described their outreach efforts to family members or foster parents.

At Baker Elementary, principal Kathleen Gallagher is strategically targeting 17 black students, even putting their photos on a flyer so parents and teachers could put faces to the efforts.

Efforts sounded strategic and robust. Then student scores were posted, and it was clear the blueprint was not delivering.

Scores from the last year’s tests, the first scores tied to the Common Core Standards, showed the old gaps persist. In some schools, black students fare worse or marginally better than English-learners who, by definition, are not fluent in English.

Despite years of task force meetings and district officials who claim to prioritize the achievement gap, progress has been – at best – marginal.

The question is why.

We need to first acknowledge the complex cocktail of issues that results in some students entering school behind their peers. Housing, poverty, language barriers – of course these things matter – make it difficult for students who are behind to catch up to their peers. And the concerns are most acute in the schools with the highest concentrations of black and Latino students.

There are also practical issues with the blueprint itself. For example, it needs to be updated. The high school exit exam, once a graduation requirement, has been included in the blueprint as a measure of success. But last year the state killed the exit exam. Vernon Moore, executive director of the district’s office of youth advocacy and the district’s point person on the blueprint, said the updated plan and refocused efforts should help schools make gains.

Yet, the central problem involves a deeper disconnection. Essentially, the blueprint task force came up with recommendations and is part of a regular group that meets with district staff to assess progress.

But the task force’s recommendations are not binding. That is, there’s no rule that says the district actually has to implement the recommendations. So you have a group of people regularly meeting in good faith, but with nothing to say that work will lead to anything concrete.

And even if more principals would like to implement many of the task force recommendations, there’s no guarantee they’ll get extra money from the district to actually do so.

Bass, who is still on the task force, sees the problem as cyclical.

“They’re talking about revamping the blueprint now, but what’s the point of revamping it when they haven’t done anything in the first plan?” said Bass. “We’ve gotten to a point where, if you’re not going to do anything recommended in the blueprint, do something.”

All principals are welcomed at the task force meetings, but Bass said only a handful of principals show up. So the plans might get kicked between the task force and the principals, but recommended strategies are implemented in few schools. Nonexistent is any sort of consistency between schools.

Bass describes the problem in medical language.

“You’ve got kids in these neighborhoods just dying educationally. If that was happening in schools north of (Interstate) 8, you know they’d have figured this out by now. If you’ve got a tumor, you’re not going to fix the problem by ignoring the tumor.”

Bass wonders what it will take for the district to move with more urgency, short of a lawsuit. Not that he’s threatening one. But he knows a few things for sure: “I’m not playing with these people, Mario. We need to hold people’s feet to the fire.”

Bass acknowledges we can’t lay the entire burden at the feet of principals and teachers. Parent involvement is a crucial element, and will become even more important moving forward. The district is supposed to create budget decisions based, in part, on the input of parents. But if parents don’t advocate – either because they’re not involved or don’t know what to request – their needs may be overlooked.

Ed Reads of the Week

• Bridging a Digital Divide that Leaves Schoolchildren Behind (New York Times)

The Times takes us to Texas this week for an important look at how the digital divide means for children whose families can’t afford home internet.

In basic terms, it means they take a three-hour bus route home instead of the short one – because the bus has free Wi-Fi, which they can access on their smart phones. Otherwise, kids wouldn’t have a way of accessing their homework, which digital-minded teachers are increasingly distributing online instead of in class.

Other students opt to hang out on the street corner – because that’s where they can access the free internet from nearby businesses. The Federal Communications Commission will vote in March to repurpose $2 billion a year toward Lifeline, a national program designed to make Internet accessible in low-income homes.

• The Secret to School Integration (New York Times)

Despite integration efforts and court rulings, public schools nationwide are extremely racially and socioeconomically segregated.

“In some ways, it’s as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened. Increasing residential segregation and a string of unfavorable court cases are partly to blame. But too many local school officials are loath to admit the role that their enrollment policies play in perpetuating de facto segregation,” writes the Times.

• Broken Discipline Tracking Systems Let Teachers Flee Troubled Pasts (USA Today)

You’d think teachers would undergo the most rigorous background checks of just about any profession. You’d be wrong.

In this investigation, USA Today finds major problems with the teacher-screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in more than 13,000 school districts.

“The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. At least three states already have begun internal investigations and audits based on questions raised during the course of this investigation,” reports USA Today.

    This article relates to: Achievement Gap, Education, Must Reads, The Learning Curve

    Written by Mario Koran and Rachel Evans

    Mario Koran asks questions and writes stories about San Diego schools. Reach him directly at 619.325.0531, or by email: mario.koran@voiceofsandiego.org. Rachel Evans is a reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at rachel.evans@voiceofsandiego.org.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    I grew up in Poverty.  Yet, I graduated, went to college, and I now have a good career.  It is true that segregation exists.  I won't deny that.  Where I grew up it was bad.  It was to the point where entire communities were all white or all black.  Poverty can't be used as an excuse.  I grew up with a single Mom who was stressed all of the time.  However, she looked at my report card on a regular basis and there were consequences for failure.  High grades were an expectation because she made it an expectation.  I saw what she went through every day, and I didn't want her job.  I also had scary teachers.  One guy was a military guy who used to show us his taekwondo kicks in the classroom with a target that used to be up on a shelf.  He'd show us how fast he could kick it and knock it off on a regular basis.  People didn't misbehave very much within his class room.  I had another teacher that liked to just send people away when they were disruptive.  I had a bad year once, and he didn't like me much.  He regularly sent me wandering around the school campus because he didn't want me in his class room.  He wasn't the best teacher, and I didn't always agree with him but I admit that my attitude wasn't the best that year.  The following year, I had to retake history and aced it under a different teacher.  Parents are a big part of this.  However in my experience teachers that know how to be assertive in the classroom are also a big part of any solution.  Are teachers too scared to be assertive these days?  Are they scared of students?  Parents?  We also had large class sizes which regularly exceeded 30 kids too.  Yet, many of my classmates still succeeded.  Go figure!  I wonder if the root cause is actually known.  I read a lot within this article about solutions, but there wasn't any mention of root cause.  One solution mentioned was hiring more colored teachers.  What exactly would that solve?  Are black and latino students not going to respect the teacher unless he or she is the same color as they are?  If so, then are the students racist or are the white teachers racist in the sense that they are too scared to be assertive with colored kids because they assume that they are dangerous?  A moment of truth is needed, and people need to be frank.  We can't be scared of offending people in order to determine the root cause.

    Steve Steppe
    Steve Steppe

    I love problems because you can focus on solutions. I went to a STEM/ STEAM conference held by US News and World report last year in San Diego. It was great lots of people have identified the problems. They even had the solutions, but they don’t work, because the problem kids are not allowed to do anything because they are a problem. So maybe rather than take the kids away from school, maybe we can bring things to them. So we built a hands on trailer to bring solar projects to the students. We bring a solar car charging trailer to the students of all school districts. Everyone can find a problem, let’s fix it, it’s broken.

    Dennis subscriber

    Poverty=low education case in point:


    "According to Whiston, Michigan ranked among the top education states in America as recently as 15 years ago. But as Michigan’s poverty numbers rose, its educational performance sank to the bottom."

    bcat, I appreciate your responses and you pose great questions. Cornelius, you are correct IMO when your talk about student behavior, (and the lack of it in many cases).

    I do not question if my children, aged 7 and 9 and both in a SDUSD public school, are being taught and I don't need test scores to prove it. I know they are being taught by listening to them in the evening talk about what they are doing at school ,checking their work, etc. When I do meet with the teacher my first questions is: Is my son behaving in your class? 

    When are parents going to share in the responsibility/accountability of their child's behavior in school? Community schools will take off if all parents feel their children will be safe on campus and their child's learning will not be constantly disrupted by others. Does the civil right of one child needing to be in a classroom regardless of behavior override the civil rights of the other children in the same class to learn in a disruptive free environment?

    I find it comical that people here and other places think students are not learning because "lazy" teachers are not attempting to teach. Those people are living in their own ideological dreamland!

    bcat subscriber

    I wish I could do more to actually solve this program.  I think I have reasonable observations and suggestions.  However, here are the barriers I perceive:

    A.  The Board of Ed doesn't want to listen to me.  Try attending a meeting and you'll see the public cannot really speak / present for more than two minutes.  They don't take appointments at their offices.

    B.  The Superintendent doesn't want to listen to me.  I've tried to make appointments to address my own children's needs and she neither accepted an appointment nor did she provide a referral to anyone else on staff.

    C.  The communities identified with Achievement Gaps are not my own community.  My community has children often identified as "at risk", but our Achievement Gap is smaller than the remainder of the district's.  If I offer advice to a community that is not my own, I fear I'll be viewed as racist or some guy that doesn't understand the problem.

    D.  Run for Board of Ed.  Well, if you read Mario's columns here, that seems like a difficult and painful process.

    There seems to be no way to help.  Tell me where I can apply myself effectively and I will give it a try, but right now all I can do is apologize to any of you reading this stuff for "venting".

    Humbly yours...

    bcat subscriber

    In case it wasn't obvious, I've tried (A) and (B).  I've tried (C) in my own community and I'm too scared to try (D) because it will take a huge toll on my family and business.  My wife's father did (D) when she was growing up and was elected.  It was very painful for her as a child and for their familiy.

    EducatedMom subscribermember

    As to the achievement gap, "Bcat" said it best, so I won't repeat his/her remarks.  I did want to add that now that there are no CAHSEEs and virtually no CSTs--and with the state saying "don't worry about the SBAC for the next five years because it's so new it doesn't count"--it is virtually impossible to measure the achievement gap with any standardized marker.  This will make it even harder to know if anything that is being implemented even makes a difference.

    I also wanted to add that this persistent perception that the district cares about the "north of 8" schools more is baloney.  The reason problems "get solved" north of 8 is because the parents put their heads together (and sometimes pull out their wallets) to solve the problems.  But as Mr. Bass knows from his "blueprint," even when you present a great idea or argument, the district often disagrees and  does want it wants or nods its collective head in agreement but still does whatever it wants.  (Note the logical arguments that the community of Scripps Ranch made as to why the district should not tear down an exiting school to build a 4-story luxury apartment complex on the site--only to have the Board vote to continue working with the developer to move forward with the plan.)  The same is true for the LCAP, where the district folks are forced, by state law, to listen, but not forced to actually implement anything that is suggested.  

    The bottom line is this district is just too big and therefore not responsive to its stakeholders--students, parents, principals, teachers  and other employees.  Making forward progress in any issue requires collaboration between all stakeholders, including the central office folks, which just doesn't work with something so big and bureaucratic.  

    Cornelius Ogunsalu
    Cornelius Ogunsalu

    "My daughter got pepper sprayed, all because of play-fighting," said parent Yolanda Lewis. "The teachers took it very serious; the kids were just playing and they ended up being tased."

    Source: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Lincoln-High-School-Imperial-Avenue-San-Diego-Students-Fight-370302011.html#ixzz41LCTaufx

    I just read about the brouhaha that occurred at Lincoln H.S. today which supports my [indiscipline] take on the achievement gap conundrum. Play fighting . . . violence . . . students hitting a police officer several times that he lands in a hospital with a head injury . . . a  typical parent's comment of denial and deflection of blame, in that area. [It's the teachers' fault!]

    richard gibson
    richard gibson subscriber

    It is no more an achievement gap than an intelligence gap. It is a matter of poverty and racism inside a segregated school system, as with all school systems within inequitable America, so passionately dedicated to perpetual war on the world and the nation's poor. Only a social movement, a class conscious movement, for equality and justice can give meaning and substance to education inside and outside the classroom.

    NorthParkian subscriber

    I'm not clear on this: Did those 17 black students at Baker Elementary do better? You say that the gap persists, but was that individual focus at all effective?

    I have always been bothered by the persistence of the achievement gap. I grew up in a place, Berkeley in the 70s and 80s, where they tried to do everything right (lots of minority teachers and role models, lots of black history) but they could not close the achievement gap. 

    The only thing that makes sense to me is the ACEs explanation http://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/. Communities that experience poverty experience a great deal of stress, making it very hard to learn.

    The explanation here on VOSD of why the Preuss School is successful fits this explanation:


    Addressing this would require lots of money for wraparound services: breakfast in the classroom, school social workers, aides for individualized tutoring, nurses providing health care.
    But I would also not rule out the effect of subtle, unconscious discrimination on the part of teachers and administrators.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    To summarize and paraphrase the situation as described by the several sincere commentators below, just slightly modify a currently popular slogan:  Parents lives matter.  

    Brian Edmonston
    Brian Edmonston

    You understand, that this problem has not been solved to date by anyone?  If you think you can solve it you should form a company and you will no doubt become a billionare.

    Also, keep in mind that there is a study that says if you do find a way to improve scores, when you apply it to all groups it actually increases the 'gap' becuase higher achiving student improve more than lower achieving students.


    So, if the gap is your only measure of sucess, you will view lower overall scores with a smaller gap as better than higher overall scores with a larger gap.  This would not be my measure of success.

    Finally, I note that Massachusettes, which has highest test scores overall, has dumped common core.  We should too.

    Cornelius Ogunsalu
    Cornelius Ogunsalu

    One major reason WHY the achievement gap has remained virtually the same for Black and Hispanic students, [never] gets discussed. Ask any teacher in schools south of the I-8, and they will tell you. Some teachers, especially female white teachers often dread returning to those struggling schools at the end of the summer break, each year. The incessant indiscipline, i.e., lack of discipline that teachers deal with on a daily basis, is that major reason. Many classrooms in those struggling schools are like war zones at times . . . with extremely rude and disruptive students, who terrorize their teachers and fellow students [and] take away from their fellow classmates who want to learn. A teacher that has a class of 30 to 40 students is unable to properly teach because 5 to 10 of those students are [constantly]discipline problems. For the most part, nothing substantial gets done during a class period (regular or block) because the teacher has to constantly stop instruction to address ongoing disruptions in the classroom.

    Worst still are the parents of many of these kids who [refuse] to rein in their unruly children . . . parents who constantly [blame] the teachers for their own lack of parenting skills and inability to send their students to school every day, to be [respectful] to their teachers and [prepared] and [ready] to [learn] . . . add that to the administrators who have been unable to find lasting solutions to the problems of indiscipline because they [use] the problems to their advantage, e.g., reprimanding teachers that they have it in for.

    Parents have also figured out how to threaten and terrorize their children's teachers, in addition to blaming the teachers for their children's lack of discipline and lack of motivation. Many of these parents also lack higher education and are unable to instill in their children, the kinds of guidance and discipline that those children [need] to succeed academically. Consequently, teachers then have to also assume the roles of parents to their students, in addition to teaching the students . . and continue to get blamed for every problem within that failed system. Teachers are human and they have endurance limitations . . . many teachers are miserable and go home frustrated every day of the school year. They start counting down the days of the school year from the first day of the school year and pray that they are able to hold things together for another year. Many of those teachers have learned to actually develop coping and survival mechanisms for each school year, taking full advantage of those breaks during the school year to quickly replenish and recharge their endurance batteries (to deal with discipline problems) till the summer break. 

    Bottom line, everybody involved do NOT want the achievement gap problem to be solved . . . they are all gaming the system because that is where the money is, for the many and variety of gimmicks that have been introduced to solve the problem. Money is [constantly] being poured into one [doomed to fail] program after another [doomed to fail] program without [properly] addressing the incessant indiscipline issues of Black and Hispanic students in the struggling schools and classrooms south of the I-8 corridor.

    The most ridiculous gimmick, is building multi-million dollar school complexes and believing that such new school buildings will solve the problem. And there are plans to build another multi-million dollar school complex at another school site that has one of the worst discipline problems in San Diego Unified School District. Lincoln High School is an example . . . what has happened there is so glaring to the eyes BUT nobody is brave enough to address the TRUTH! Yes, there are many issues that need to be addressed, revolving around poverty at home and in neighborhoods BUT it is always one excuse after the other and one blame game after the other, while ignoring the [real] problem. Don't get me wrong, beautiful and well equipped school buildings are part of the solution but they lose their essence if the students are not learning within them.

    Fully and honestly addressing the problems of student indiscipline will have remarkable and positive impacts on reducing the achievement gap.

    bcat subscriber

    @Cornelius Ogunsalu 

    I'm afraid to agree with you.  Part of the missing element in this discussion is the desire to learn.

    How do we measure behavior issues?  If we could measure them, we could figure out if your assertion is true.  <I'm being quite serious here>  What I hear you saying is that the behaviors are not suspension / expulsion worthy.  Behavior issues occur at my schools too, but not to the extent that they create fear.  Are those behavior issues at the root of why high schools south of I-8 have more resident students that can fit in their schools, yet they have the highest number of charter school pupils and the lowest number of resident students attending their schools?

    Cornelius Ogunsalu
    Cornelius Ogunsalu

    @bcat @Cornelius Ogunsalu The behaviors [are] suspension/expulsion worthy! Suspensions don't mean anything to students these days. They are happy they get to stay home and there are hardly any consequences at home because of enabling parents. It's the teacher's fault that the student got suspended. The expulsion process is long and tedious and often, those kids that end up being expelled are kids that teachers have already identified (over a year previously) as needing special services beyond what can be provided in a regular classroom.

    Such students are imposed on teachers as their behavior issues escalate. For example, a teacher identifies student X as having certain behavior problems that constantly disrupts the learning of the other students . . . school administrators in an effort to retain enrollment numbers, do nothing for a long time in terms of quickly addressing those problems. Two years later. the student ends up in an alternative school, sometimes in juvenile lock-up facility or treatment center where the student is attending school.

    During the preceding two years, teachers are blamed for the student's problems and parents use the existing laws to hold the school and district to ransom. They fail to look at themselves as [the] problem.

    I am glad you don't have fearful behavior issues at your school. Let me share a real story with you. A teacher south of I-8 was sharing with me, a few summers ago, how she was dreading going back to her middle school when the summer break was over. She said she was about to inherit a group of former 7th graders that had caused so much trouble in school the previous year. By this time she was visibly shaken and was already sobbing and I had to console her and assure her that everything was going to be okay. What could I say? I knew exactly what she was talking about and knew things were not going to be okay and that she would just have to devise coping mechanisms to deal with each day, when school started back.

    I am not sure about your charter school question [but] there are lots of evidence showing that many charter schools are get-rich-quick schemes for some people who start them, whereby they siphon funding and other resources meant for public schools, to a few select (carefully screened) students. They boast of high achievement rates because they have very strict protocols in place that do not allow for many of the shenanigans that happen in public schools.

    Let's start talking about REAL issues and finding REAL solutions rather that coming up with one expensive gimmick after the other. Many of our students are becoming lazier and unmotivated about their learning and it is NOT [always] the teachers' fault. Parents need to be held accountable. Parents need to rein in their wayward, disrespectful and unruly students.

    The counselor that sued Marne Foster is on the right track . . . when teachers and counselors start taking similar actions against some parents like that . . . [maybe] such parents will start taking responsibility for their children's unruly/disrespectful behaviors and learning outcomes.

    You don't have to agree with me . . . I have my own experiences to go by and I am quite comfortable with voicing my opinion even when many don't agree with them. ;)

    bcat subscriber

    @Cornelius Ogunsalu @bcat 

    I have kids from 4th to 11th grade.  I see all school levels at the present time.

    At high school, and often middle school, correcting behaviors is very difficult.  Sadly, the easiest response is our "incarceration" solution - the suspension.  As you point out, it may protect the classroom temporarily, but not permanently.

    In addition, I see many disruptions that are not suspension-worthy but they degrade the learning environment, undermine the teacher's authority and leadership in the classroom, and set a poor example for kids on the edge.  Could we actually track these problems and show a correlation between behavior, social values, and academic performance to explain the Achievement Gap?  Can we really convince people that this is the problem without some metric that raises this seemingly ugly truth?

    It is shocking to see the behaviors of children in K-3.  Many children have no concept of why they are in school and that they should behavior in a way that makes learning possible!  They literally get up in the middle of class and wander around as if the classroom belonged to them; without any consideration for the teacher or their fellow students.  Almost unbelievable that parents just send their children to school with that sense of entitlement that the child should be so inconsiderate.

    I see children of all background interested in learning at K-3.  Then as they get older, it is easy to see which don't get attention at home.  When they are young, they ask questions all the time and they crave attention (praise and punishment).  As they get older, they typically stop performing in school, stop paying attention, and turn to more destructive behaviors to get even more attention.

    Is this the problem we see in the Achievement Gap?  Does poverty produce parents that don't give their children enough attention and therefore they don't teach them to behave?

    Have we created a self-destructive (no education = low wage = next generation of poverty) society?  Is it our fault?  

    I'm really not sure.  I just see the symptoms.  Even if I saw the disease, is the prescription an authoritarian mandate to incarcerate or "re-educate" parents on parenting?  Aren't those solutions anti-liberty?

    Dennis subscriber

    Duh! Achievement gap = poverty gap

    Study after study after study after study

    Maybe one day our politicians at the national, state, county and local level will actually address it but right now it is to easy to blame public education and its teachers.

    bcat subscriber


    Why is poverty to "root cause"?  Why does being poor mean doing poorly in school?

    Is it a culture in and of itself?  That is hard to solve.  We already feed students breakfast and lunch at school.  So we're addressing a lot of their meals.  What is it about poverty that creates this situation?

    Is it that parents cannot spend time nurturing their child's education?  We can address a little of that.  We have 6-to-6 programs where kids can stay at school for 12 hours.  With the right resources, that can be staffed to educate and nurture a value in education among those attendees.

    I can tell you from observing that 6-to-6 is a playtime free for all at elementary school.  They are not encouraged to work on projects or homework.  Perhaps that is the answer?

    NorthParkian subscriber


    This. Poverty is accompanied by stress, family stress makes it hard to succeed. Not impossible, but if you're a kid worrying about how you're going to get your little brother fed that night, or which relatives will let you sleep at their house, it's pretty hard to concentrate on school. If your parents are stressed about joblessness, you will be, too.

    bcat subscriber

    @VeronicaCorningstone @Dennis 

    I get the stress component.  Two generations ago, that was my family of origin...  living in NYC trying to make ends meet with (x2) kids + (x2) adults working full time at multiple jobs, including piecemeal work (home sewing) to make extra money.

    Each child got out of poverty their own way.  One by education the other by starting his own business.

    Some of the aspects of poverty are address (e.g. breakfast / lunch at school; daycare).  We cannot overcome all of it.

    Is one simple solution merely changing 6-to-6 into an academically focused program?  Why isn't it an academic program?

    Cornelius Ogunsalu
    Cornelius Ogunsalu

    @Kathy S The blueprint does not address the REAL problem/s causing the high rates of suspensions, expulsions, etc. of African American students.

    The inaugural conference of the AAAE took place approximately ten or more years ago and the founders of the organization include Dr. Shirley Weber. Dr. Weber herself has admitted at the conference in 2013 that the organization has failed in its mission. So, for about three days during the year the conference is held with workshops, presentations, award ceremonies and scholarship awards to some students . . . everybody then goes away and the organizers plan for the next year by securing additional funding and grants to go through the motions of writing and trying to implement unworkable "Blueprints" that don't address how to [really] close the achievement gap for African American students.

    AAAE would achieve better results if the focuses of the organization, are on educating the parents on how to be better parents to their children and ensure that their children behave respectfully and appropriately in school; ensure that their children come to school daily, [prepared] and [motivated] to learn; ensure that parents learn that [they] are part of the problem when they blame teachers for problems stemming from home; . . .  it is time to shift the overall focus to where the real problems are identified and real solutions are implemented "to accelerate the achievement of African American students."

    The trustee that recently resigned from SDUSD has illuminated the mentality of a typical parent of under-privileged kids  . . . blame the school, teachers, counselors and administrators (including getting them fired and disciplined) . . . seek compensation for contrived and exaggerated violations . . . [suck the system dry] in every which way possible, using poverty as an excuse [every time]; . .  refuse to hold yourself and your children accountable for their academic achievements . . . continue to game the system as much as possible, in a nutshell!!!

    I guess that was why Cindy Marten was shocked that a parent, [south of the I-8 corridor,] was trying to stick the tab of their student's college education on the district through an elaborate fraud. We can learn a lot from all that . . . but nobody is brave enough to confront and speak the truth!

    bcat subscriber

    @Cornelius Ogunsalu @Kathy S 

    I think we're still dancing around the issue.  Something is missing from this description.

    Is the issue "better" parenting?  What is it about our society that makes / forces / encourages some parents to value education and others do not?

    In my neighborhood school there are plenty of parents that don't value education.  Their students do mediocre to poorly. Those that invest time in their children *specifically in education* see performance change.  I believe that academic performance is 70% nature and 70% nurture.  This means that there is definitely both a genetic component to academic performance but that almost any student can score high enough to go to a great college with the right environment and effort - I've seen it!

    Is what you're identifying actually that we have a portion of our population that cares so little about education that they don't even care about raising their children to behave in school?  I acknowledge that can be the case.

    *IF* that is true, what do we do?

    Do we "teach" parents to be better parents?  That seems antithetical to the American Dream of freedom and liberty.  What if some of those parents don't "want" to be the parent you want them to be?  There is no license or qualification for parenting.  Seems like they have the right to raise children the way that they see fit.  Perhaps you suggest there need to be consequences for them, an accounting for behavior in the Achievement Gap?

    Should we divide our students into well behaved and not well behaved?  Should we put them in different classrooms?  Different schools?  Teach them different?  Track their progress different?

    Should we divide our students into those that "care" about education?  Put in "effort"? and those that do not?

    How do we "protect" those students that want to learn but have a hard time getting to school, eating a balanced diet, studying after school from those that do not?

    bcat subscriber

    @Cornelius Ogunsalu @bcat @Kathy S 

    I think what is missing is that most people (and SDUSD admin / teachers / Board of Ed) talk about this subject in the following way:

    *  Not enough money

    *  We need more black / hispanic role models (teachers / admins / ...) [oddly enough we have them on the Board of Ed!]

    *  We need textbooks and materials that have black / hispanic role models

    *  We need teachers that are "inspiring" and sensitive to the barriers that students have in their lives

    *  We need to create an environment at school that compensates for all the missing things in these children's lives (e.g. food, shelter, safety, ...)

    *  Once we do all these things, children will just "succeed"

    *  Charter schools / small schools "prove" that if we do all these things, there will be no Achievement Gap

    I think what is missing is a dialog that includes the topics Cornelius and I have described (behavior, parental preferences / examples, student interest in education) in a scientific way.  The dialog must be framed in a way that the discussion avoids accusations of racism / classism and instead focuses on the true "why" the Achievement Gap exists.

    Saying it is "poverty" or <ethnic> culture is not descriptive enough to guide a solution.

    Picking apart the reasons and revealing that it may be family choices or personal preference in wanting to be educated absolves teachers of the Achievement Gap.  This may truly be the case.

    If however, a scientific approach reveals a communication or resource gap, then we can address this issue.  For example, perhaps students / families don't understand exactly the consequences of "disinterest" in education.  If that is the case, that's a solvable problem through out reach.  That may change the motivation to be educated.  If families express that there is a barrier to being educated (e.g. I can't help my kid with homework at home because I work (x2) jobs), we can solve this problem by restructuring 6-to-6 programs to be academic rather than social.  If families express that they don't have time to watch their children and teach them how to behave in a classroom, that is a solvable problem because through individual student behavior contracts we can increase teachers' authority to discipline students and teach them proper behavior.

    Since we don't have this level of intimate dialog, what I hear is:

    *  don't discipline my kid, he's/she's fine

    *  don't discipline my kid, you're not allowed to pass judgement on him/her, I'm his parent

    *  I didn't know that he/she needed to work that hard to get into college

    *  Why are you teaching my kid this stuff, he/she doesn't need to know it

    *  You don't understand my life.  I need to work (x2) jobs to survive.  If my kid doesn't want to work hard in school, that's his/her own fault.  They'll pay the price

    *  You're all white people and you don't understand how all the books and teachers are white and how hard that makes it for my kid to learn

    *  You're all English speakers and you don't understand that if you just taught my kid in Spanish, they'd be doing great

    None of those are solvable.  We need to get to a place where problems are solvable or accept the status quo.  We need to talk about:

    *  This is my family situation

    *  This is what public education can offer

    *  How can we close the gap

    We are still not there...

    bcat subscriber

    This is a really good question...  what is at the core of this Achievement Gap?  It is documented all over the country and it is real.

    *  Why don't the same teaching techniques work for all students?

    *  Are the barriers (social, economic, ...) too big to overcome?

    *  Are we starting too late? (e.g this is an elementary school problem, a pre-K problem)

    Why does Bass assume that "You’ve got kids in these neighborhoods just dying educationally. If that was happening in schools north of (Interstate) 8, you know they’d have figured this out by now"?  That presumes that the problem is understood, we have a solution or the right people to come up with a solution and that we have the resources to implement the solution.

    We've been spending money on this problem for a long time.  Five to ten years ago, students that were in majority Achievement Gap schools had budgets that were (x3) - (x5) the budgets of schools that had few Achievement Gap students.  That doesn't sound like we didn't (don't) have enough money.

    There are schools that have beat the Achievement Gap.  The data I've seen indicates the following (somewhat obvious) answers:

    *  Get good teachers.  Teachers that are motivated, interested in teaching, are creative, have up to date skills, and are self-improving

    *  Hire excellent principals.  Principals that have vision, provide leadership and motivation, and help staff improve their teaching skills

    *  Collect interested and engages students / families

    *  Execute personalized instruction (typically smaller classrooms)

    Theoretically you can address 75% of these items with money / hiring practices / employment contracts.  However, one of these is unique - attract interested students / families.  The anecdotal stories I've read of charter schools and public schools that have beat the Achievement Gap all have special programs where students are self-selected; they need to apply to the school.

    Is it the case that their success *requires* interested students?  Is it the case that these Achievement Gap busting schools are really just picking the best students?

    Is it the case that all it requires to beat the Achievement Gap is to have more "interested" students?

    Should we address this by creating more "interesting" teachers to inspire students to be more interested?

    Should we address this by trying to educate families to be more interested in education?

    Are we turning off students based upon the ethnicity of teachers?  Or is that racist?

    Are we turning off students based upon the racist nature of the textbooks?  If you look at a modern textbook, it represents many ethnicities in a disproportionate fashion (actually over representing some ethnicities like Asian and African American and under representing Hispanics).

    What is the real source of the Achievement Gap?

    How do we have an intelligent conversation about this topic without getting upset about racism / classism / ... ?

    Cornelius Ogunsalu
    Cornelius Ogunsalu

    @bcat Pumping money into the Achievement Gap issue is a yearly game of [spend all the money because if we don't, we will not get more money next year.] So, administrators continue to spend money on programs that don't work . . . so that there is no progress or the AG problem gets worse . . . so that they get more funding for the next school year. It is a BIG SCAM that [nobody] wants a solution to.

    bcat subscriber

    @Cornelius Ogunsalu @bcat 

    In my experience the present "solutions" to the Achievement Gap are not based upon a scam or conspiracy.  It is merely the hallmark of lazy, narrow, and timid minds.

    Throwing money is the universal solution.  It is easy to move money around.  In the best of circumstances, it enables those closer to the problem to apply resources more effectively than those distant from the problem.  However, you and I seem to be of the opinion that those closest to the problem either are not or cannot address the root problem.

    In the worst scenario, throwing money is politically expedient:  "we gave them the money... it is not our (Board or Ed) fault that there is no solution".

    I believe you and I are suggesting that the problem is sociopolitical.  It requires the meeting of politicians to address social issues (racism, poverty, ...) and the community and staff to discuss its social problems (bad behaviors in the classroom, disinterest in education, inability to help children with the schoolwork due to poverty).  

    That is the *brave* and *difficult* work.  It requires vision, resolve, compassion, humility, and understanding.  Easy to say and hard to do.

    bcat subscriber

    @Kathy S @bcat 

    I don't know these people.  Can you ask them?  I really want to know the (practical) answer...

    I really don't think we can solve the poverty problem with our school system.  If this is intrinsic to poverty, we should stop working on the Achievement Gap, because by definition it cannot be solved by education.  Is that really the answer?