School Board Candidates on the Achievement Gap

At the school board candidates’ forum last week, candidates were given an insufficient amount of time to respond to our question on the achievement gap, so we have asked it as the first of five weekly questions, similar to what we did with the city council in the spring.

We asked the candidates to limit their answer to 250 words.

Question: Do you believe there is an achievement gap in DJUSD? If not, then how can we make sure to keep it that way? If you believe there is an achievement gap what are concrete steps to address it?


Bob Poppenga: The educational “achievement gap” refers to differences in academic performance between groups of students. It is most often used to refer to differences in academic performance (e.g., grades, standardized-test scores, dropout rates, or college-admission rates) between Latino and African American students and their Caucasian and Asian peer groups. The term is also applied to student academic performance differences based upon family income, gender, learning disabilities, and English language proficiency.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 focused the nation’s attention on trying to close the achievement gap through various targeted interventions. Despite intense efforts to close the gap, only modest progress has been made since 2001. However, there are a number of strategies that can help, although no single strategy is completely effective when used in isolation. Unfortunately, some useful strategies like creating smaller schools or year round school are unlikely to be implemented due to lack of resources or political opposition.

  • Provide as many early learning opportunities for children at risk as possible.
  • While early education is critical to getting off on the right academic foot, maintaining academic readiness over a long summer vacation can be challenging for low income children.
  • We need do everything that we can to ensure quality teaching in every classroom.   In my view, this means not only hiring good teachers but providing them with a quality professional development system and an effective peer mentoring program (especially for early career teachers) to help them develop and expand their teaching skills.
  • More contact time with students, either through a longer day or longer school year, can help. California’s recent budget crisis resulted in school districts shortening the school year by several days.
  • Lastly, as I wrote in a previous Vanguard commentary (August 2), there is emerging evidence that short, appropriately formulated psychological interventions at critical stages of a child’s education (transition to junior high school or high school for example) can help at risk children overcome their self-doubts and negative stereotypes about their abilities and lead to better long term academic performance.

(Editor’s note: we condensed the answer due to space limitations; we will publish his full account at a later date).


Chuck Rairdan: Yes. I believe there is a persistent achievement gap in DJUSD and for a variety of reasons. At a comprehensive level, I think the community should make a concerted effort to create a more inclusive environment in our schools. For example, not every student in Davis is college bound nor should they be.  Each child has his or her own unique interests, talents, and learning style and we need to honor and respect those differences.  In addition to developing solid foundational literacies and meeting or exceeding state standards, students who are drawn to the arts or trades should have ample options available to pursue the interests that inspire them personally.  Taking steps to keep all our youth productively engaged and broadening the sense of belonging in our schools will motivate more students to stay actively involved in their education.

Another example is EL, or English Learner, students. Finding the ways to keep them engaged enough to gain English proficiency is a critical step toward subject matter mastery. A better understanding of the social barriers that many EL student experience will help open the doors to greater interaction with their English speaking classmates. There is a substantial migrant farm worker population within DJUSD and the district has recently initiated an outreach program that encourages and supports these children to strive academically. This program also includes home visits for students throughout the Davis community who are struggling in school.  The recently developed Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, identifies these and other concrete steps that are beginning to seriously address the achievement gap.  With continued progress, other measures can be identified that build upon what has proved to be successful.


Barbara Archer: Of course there is an achievement gap in Davis. About one quarter of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. At some individual school sites, this number is much higher.

In a recent Sacramento Bee article on teacher tenure, writer Steve O’Donoghue writes that the “number 1 reason low-income students, especially students of color, achieve less than their white peers is family income.”

O’Donoghue further notes that “a number of studies have found that the main determinant of student success in school is family income.”

We must do all we can as a district to support students who are struggling in school whatever the reason. At a district candidate forum on Wednesday night, we asked the district’s climate coordinator about climate trends in the district. She said she had noticed an increase in the number of homeless students. The district has support structures in place for these students, and we should review what is being done to see if we have the means to strengthen those supports.

We must make sure we have equal access to school and program information, which may mean an increase in translation and interpretation services. We have over 40 languages represented in our district.

The district has seen a surge in the need for crisis counseling, and we need more resources in that area.

Special education students may fall into the achievement gap. I would like to get more information about the district IEP program and communications about IEP issues and accommodations are handled.

We have many good people in the district doing their best with the resources they have, and it will be up to the board to prioritize budget for these resources.


Mike Nolan: The “Achievement Gap” is a discrepancy in scores on standardized tests, in particular math and English language arts, between certain groups of students.  Yes it does exist.  But it is important to understand that these gaps exist throughout the United States, not just Davis.  Thus, Black and Hispanic students score less well, than white (European decent) students, who in turn score less well than American students with Asian (i.e. from Turkey to Korea) ancestry.

To the extent this indicates a gap in education and college admissions, or does it signify something else?  In medical terms, is it the sickness or only a symptom?  Turn the question on its head:  If the gap ended this year, what would THAT signify?  Would it mean the end to discrimination, or prejudice?  Would minority students no longer suffer disproportionate school punishment?  Or would only those who market and those who trust in the infallibility of standardized testing breathe a sigh of relief?  I think standardized testing is a “means” to measure certain student achievement, it is not an “end” in and of itself.

My view is to focus on counseling and preparation for the impacted population.  But I see a danger in proposals to “drill” those students for these tests at the expense of non-tested curriculum: music, the arts, history, government and vocational education.  Why should belonging to a population with a lower score on a test deprive you of the full panoply of public education?  Our School District’s policy is to look at the whole student, as one with unique talents, which our schools must allow to be developed.


Jose Granda: It is a disappointment, for those who believe the Davis Schools are the best, to face reality. They are not performing to their best. According to the report published by the Sacramento Bee Sunday, February 5, 2012, Davis schools do not even place within the first 15 in the area from API (Academic Performance Index) scores. So there is an achievement gap. What to do?

What I can offer is my experience of 32 years of teaching.   If we as a district are going to address this issue, there has to be a plan with measurable controls to close the achievement gap, an allocation of resources for our teachers to do the best they can be, allocation of facilities for tutoring, and a general policy to provide tutoring assistance to any child that needs help.   I have proposed the creation of a tutoring center K-12 on the Grande Property to use it to benefit the education of Davis children, including preparation for the SAT and ACT. That land belongs to the kids and their parents, the taxpayers. I oppose giving it for pennies to some developer to make money and build houses instead of classrooms. A tutoring center would be unique in the area and will show a deliberate effort to raise the quality and achievement of Davis students.


Madhavi Sunder: Preschool and Transitional kindergarten play a vital role in closing the achievement and helping to ensure that struggling students are not already behind when they start kindergarten because other children had access to high quality preschool and they did not. I believe that Davis can lead the way in a new wave of thinking about and implementing public preschool, and we have leaders in the field like Amy Duffy and Ross and Janet Thompson within our town with whom we can partner.

Parents and the schools must work together as a village to support each child’s growth. At Montgomery Elementary, parents are partnering with the UC Davis linguistics department to offer free English and Spanish language classes for parents in the mornings. Such programs bring parents, including Spanish speaking families, onto campus and into the school community. The Family Resource Center at Montgomery also brings non-Native speaking parents to campus. The new two-way bilingual immersion program at Montgomery allows non-English speaking parents to volunteer and help in the classroom, increasing their connectedness and feeling of being able to contribute to their own child’s and other children’s education.

Another key area is early literacy. We need to ensure that all children are strong readers by the time they finish third grade; from thereon, they will be reading to learn, not learning to read. This year the district is supporting reading aides in all third grade classes throughout the district to ensure that all of our third graders are reading at grade level. Two-way bilingual immersion, which allows Spanish speakers to learn to read in their first language, gives confidence to children and helps instill a love of reading.

Extended learning opportunities, such as the Bridge after-school homework program at Montgomery, the homework club at Holmes Jr. High, and summer school programs are other key means for keeping kids learning.

Offering a diversity of programs is also key to keeping all students, including struggling students, engaged. A well-balanced school and a well-balance curriculum are the key to all children succeeding.

(Editor’s note: we condensed the answer due to space limitations and will publish her full account at a later date).


Editor’s note: At press time, we did not receive a response from Tom Adams or Alan Fernandes. If we receive them, we will add them to the bottom.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

41 Comments

  1. wdf1

    The achievement gap has typically been defined as the differential in standardized test scores between lower-performing demographic groups and higher-performing groups. But it is a concept that extends to other areas of school life, including school climate and participation rates in “enrichment activities”.

    The biggest determinant of the achievement gap is family income, especially when it is connected to lower levels of parent education. If a child is in ELL (especially when the parents have weaker English-speaking skills), and/or special ed status, then the issue is exacerbated. It is important to use caution in referring to racial characteristics to define an achievement gap. For instance, in Davis there are many higher performing African-American and Latino students, but they more frequently come from families with higher parent education levels (UCD faculty, for instance). Family stress is another contributing factor that isn’t directly definable using conventional demographic characteristics.

    It is important to define why the problem exists in order to better target solutions, especially if resources are limited. Archer immediately addressed income level. Poppenga addressed income in passing. Nolan had some good thoughts about standardized testing, but didn’t get to root causes. Rairdan mentioned some groups but never specifically acknowledged family income factors. Sunder mentioned a lot of solutions (as did others), but didn’t identify fundamental root causes.

    A number of solutions proposed would be helpful and many already exist to some degree: free pre-school exists for limited numbers of students, homework support, Family Resource Center, the LCAP process, better access to enrichment programs, summer support…

    But again, better language services (translated material,bilingual staff, available interpreters), especially for Spanish speaking families, in order to communicate information, would go far to help those parents know all the resources that are available and how they might best support their children.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i appreciate your analysis, wdf, but one point – no one wants to identify fundamental root causes especially in a campaign situation because the root cause is unpleasant. our schools are built for one type of kid in davis. oh we have programs to help others, but at the end of the day, the truth came out a few years ago at the city’s breaking the silence of racism event where scores of people laid out how their minority and especially mixed race kids felt in the schools. do we want to address those truths? because in the two years since that event, i haven’t seen the district step forward on any of it.

      1. wdf1

        The closer to identifying the cause(s), then the better the chance of owning the problem. It would be better to own the problem locally and work to fix it. Otherwise the issues will persist and then eventually (and this has already happened) state and federal political forces will impose regulations and solutions that likely will not align in addressing local ground-level conditions and circumstances.

  2. Tia Will

    I have yet to see one issue addressed other than extremely obliquely. That is the literacy of the parents. I know if our highly educated city it is not frequently addressed that any parent other than those who are not fluent in English is not literate. However, as a doctor working in this community I am very aware that there is a high level ( estimated by our health care educators) at somewhere between 10-15% of our English speaking population that cannot read ( and comprehend) at above the junior high school level. This is a problem that is very difficult to discern, let alone address since this is a matter of shame for many who have learned how to “pass” in our society as literate, but are unable to fully access information and help their children in ways that would optimize their use of our system.

      1. Tia Will

        Not knowledgeable to have a valid opinion. Probable some contribution, but also factors such as long standing familial patterns being continued through generations may also play a role as may economic factors. My sister and I grew up under identical ( very lower socioeconomic ) circumstances and yet had vastly different educational experiences and achievement. This is a truly multifactorial area.

    1. South of Davis

      wdf1 wrote:

      > The achievement gap has typically been defined as the differential in
      > standardized test scores between lower-performing demographic
      > groups and higher-performing groups.

      I was recently talking about the “achievement gap” between kids in the same families who went to the same schools. I have never heard of any family that does not have an “achievement gap” between siblings that have the same parents, the same study materials and go to the same schools.

      If we have a “gap in achievement” from kids that have the same smart parents who help them study and send them to great schools how can we EVER expect to not have a “gap” between kids with smart parents who help them study and parents who are drug dealers who let the kids watch TV and play video games all day?

      1. David Greenwald

        I find some of your comments strange, we are not talking about small differences in achievement here, we are talking about large ones and ones that hold even when income and parental education is factored in.

        1. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > we are not talking about small differences in achievement here,
          > we are talking about large ones and ones that hold even when
          > income and parental education is factored in.

          Maybe your GPA and SAT scores were within a few points of your siblings but I know MANY families where one sibling took the GED rather than the SAT and another got a PhD.

          When you have a HUGE (not small) difference in achievement in many families how can anyone not expect an even BIGGER “gap” in achievement when you have kids from very different families?

          1. David Greenwald

            But I think you are missing a key element here and that is there are two different populations comprised of individuals with distinct background and characteristics who on average have very different results. And we know that within those populations are a number of “disadvantaged” individuals. We also also know that Davis for reasons that I don’t think we fully understand has a wider gap in the achievement than other communities. How do you as a school district not examine that? How do you as an individual attempt to minimize or shrug it off because you can identify differences between achievement in children of the same household?

          2. David Greenwald

            To take it in another area, if I make more or less income than my sisters, why does that have any bearing at all on the income disparity between blacks and whites?

          3. Tia Will

            “how can anyone not expect an even BIGGER “gap” in achievement when you have kids from very different families?”

            The issue for me is not how we cannot expect to have a gap, but rather what are the factors that we can identify and mitigate. We will never be able to alter the individual biochemistry of a given student, or have much say in her relationships with her parents ( the core of the difference in my family) but by focusing on the individual needs of each child and appreciating how different their motivating factors and learning styles may be from others, perhaps we can identify those factors where we can have a positive impact.

      2. wdf1

        SoD: I was recently talking about the “achievement gap” between kids in the same families who went to the same schools. I have never heard of any family that does not have an “achievement gap” between siblings that have the same parents, the same study materials and go to the same schools.

        I have that among my kids. The difference is that I’m better able to optimize my children’s outcomes than someone with less education, income, and language ability because I have a better idea what comes next (college and post HS graduation options), I more readily know where to get more information if I need it, and we have some modest financial resources that we can bring to bear if necessary.

        When there are statistical patterns that tend to be predictive — such as, based on parent income, education, I can predict which kindergarteners will go to college and which won’t, that’s a problem. It’s a problem because it means there is very limited to no social mobility from one generation to the next.

        1. South of Davis

          wdf1 wrote:

          > I can predict which kindergarteners will go to college and which won’t,
          > that’s a problem. It’s a problem because it means there is very limited
          > to no social mobility from one generation to the next.

          It seems to me that the “education system” in America is MUCH more focused on getting kids to “go to college” than teach them “how to make a living” (Is there even a single class in the Davis schools that talks about investing?). One of my best friends growing up had well educated parents (his Mom went to Radcliff and his Dad got a masters in chemical engineering from MIT) and a “straight A” sister.

          He always had a hard time in school but was great at fixing things including bikes and cars. His parents forced him to go to college but after 8 years and four different colleges he dropped out (without getting a degree). He now has his own auto repair business, a million dollar + home, a nice place in Squaw Valley, and a great family (and does not care that his sister and brother in law who both have Masters degrees in English literature and so many other people in the “education” world look down on him as uneducated)…

          There is still “social mobility” in America for people that “want” it, but it is important that every kid in America does not “want” to get an engineering degree at Stanford, work as an analyst for Goldman for a few years before going to HBS and working at a Sand Hill Road VC firm or get an undergrad degree in chemistry at UCSB before getting a Masters in Environmental Engineering at UCD and after getting a credential teach kids about nature…

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t know if vocational programs qualify as a solution to the achievement gap, but as I’ve said before I think we need more of them.

  3. ryankelly

    None of the candidates addressed the higher rates of discipline for students of color in Davis schools. That came out in studies and reports. I wonder if students from low-income families, who do not have an educated and resourceful parent to advocate for them, also have higher rates of detention, suspension and expulsion.

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I think there is a lot to be learned from academic achievement gaps, in terms of what various cultures do to help their kids and others do to hurt theirs. Rather than presuming that our school system and teachers are doing something wrong, we should be encouraging those who are not performing well to emulate the cultures of those who succeed. Almost everything done right or wrong which results in the achievement gap comes out of the homes and families each kid is born into. What is a mistake is to think that all cultural norms are of equal worth. Some are far better than others, in terms of creating successful kids.

    However, the broad groupings–black, white, Latino and Asian–muddy the picture.

    All white ethnic or cultural groups don’t achieve at the same levels, for instance. Some are historically very strong; others much less. The difference in test scores between Ashkenazis and Appalachian Scots-Irish is probably greater than the difference between so-called Asians and Latinos. Blacks whose parents come from various African countries (we have quite a few Nigerians in Davis, for example) have a much better time of it in our schools than African-Americans whose heritage and culture traces back to the South. Blacks whose recent ancestors come from Jamaica tend to outperform whites in all academic subjects.

    Latinos in the United States are even more diverse than whites or blacks. Grouping together a child whose parents or grandparents were rural, uneducated campesinos in Honduras with a child whose mom and dad are professors from Chile** makes little sense. Yet that’s what is done by calling them both Latino.

    Asian, of course, is a meaningless label in terms of culture. Sure, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese tend to perform very well in school. But, as Asians, they are lumped together with Iranians, Filipinos, Sri Lankans and Kazakhs, and each of the latter groups is very different from the Orientals. Even within a national group like Filipino or Vietnamese, you have very different cultures which greatly affect scholastic achievement*. If you are a Filipino or Vietnamese with Chinese heritage, you will almost certainly come from a family which highly values education and your achievement will probably be quite high. On the other hand, many Filipinos have a Polynesian culture and they value education far less and their kids consequently perform worse in school. If a Vietnamese child’s heritage is Hmong or even non-Chinese Viet, it’s far less likely his family’s cultural norms support education in the way that a Sino-Viet family will.

    *One of my grandmothers grew up in Hanoi before World War 1. Her father, an Austrian Jew, worked for the colonial government of French Indo-China. At that time, all of the local elites of Vietnam were of Chinese heritage. They were called Annamites, so-named because of the Annamite Mountain range and its historical Chinese legacy. What distinguished the Chinese from other Vietnamese was their cultural/family values which resulted in an achievement gap above and beyond their compatriots.

    **I recall, back in 1973, when Pinochet took power in Chile and Davis suddenly had a big influx of Chileans, whose academic parents were fleeing the repression there. Same thing happened in Davis several years later when Khomeini took over Iran.

    1. South of Davis

      Rich wrote:

      > I think there is a lot to be learned from academic achievement gaps, in terms of what
      > various cultures do to help their kids and others do to hurt theirs. Rather than presuming
      > that our school system and teachers are doing something wrong,

      The “goal” of pointing out the “achievement gap” is to get more money for the schools, so it is important to always talk about a new program that will close the gap (if we just had more funds)…

      > What is a mistake is to think that all cultural norms are of equal worth. Some are far
      > better than others, in terms of creating successful kids.

      Since pointing out bad behavior of any non-white groups is “racist” we will never hear anything pointing out the bad behavior of many cultures that create a lot of unsuccessful kids…

      1. David Greenwald

        “Since pointing out bad behavior of any non-white groups is “racist” we will never hear anything pointing out the bad behavior of many cultures that create a lot of unsuccessful kids…”

        Are you saying that the entire group has bad behavior? Are you suggesting that there is something inherent about that group that causes the bad behavior? Daniel Marsh is white, does his behavior say anything about whites?

        1. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > Are you saying that the entire group has bad behavior?

          No

          > Are you suggesting that there is something inherent
          > about that group that causes the bad behavior?

          No

          What I am saying is that we will never see anything from the schools calling out bad behavior in some groups (or to agree with Rich never see anything from the schools that says “Grouping together a child whose parents or grandparents were rural, uneducated campesinos in Honduras with a child whose mom and dad are professors from Chile** makes little sense.”…

          1. David Greenwald

            But I’m trying to understand why would we call out behavior of groups when you answered in the negative in the first two questions?

          2. South of Davis

            David wrote:

            > I’m trying to understand why would we call
            > out behavior of groups when you answered
            > in the negative in the first two questions?

            Are you really trying to understand, or just giving me a hard time?

            Do ALL white people let their kids stay up late and get enough sleep, No

            Is there something inherent about white people that makes them let their kids stay up late, No

            Do you understand why we still tell some white people that it is a good idea if their kids more sleep.

            http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/let-them-sleep-docs-want-later-school-times-teens-n186976

        2. Frankly

          I think you can make the case that certain racial groups are over-represented in individual bad behavior of certain types. For example, it has been reported over and over and over again that the typical mass murder by gun is a young white male. There is no hesitation to make that point.

          But then most violent crime is by a young black males and young Latino males.

          For example:

          2008 (Jan-June) New York City Crime Statistics by Race (from Yahoo News)

          -83% of all gun assailants were black, while making up 24% of the population

          -Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98% of all gun assailants

          -49 of every 50 muggings and murders were carried out by blacks or Hispanics

          -Blacks and Hispanics commit 96% of the crimes in New York, but include only 85% of those stopped during ‘stop and frisk’ incidents.

          In addition, compared to young and old, black and Latino youth are more likely than are black and Latino adults to perpetrate crime. While for whites, adults perpetrate more crime than do youth.

          This is a very important data point inconsideration of the achievement gap. For what every reasons, black and Latino youth are more likely to be involved in crime than are their white peers. How can you be doing your studies when you are doing crime?

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        The “goal” of pointing out the “achievement gap” is to get more money for the schools,

        I think the goal depends on who is doing the pointing out.

        My perception is that some, like David Greenwald, who give a lot of attention to group performance differences presume the problem is top-down and therefore the changes need to be made at the top level–that is, the fault lies with the schools, administrators, teachers, etc. And therefore the solution to the achievement gap is to change the behavior of the schools, administrators, teachers, etc.

        My view, as stated above, is that the problem is largely bottom-up*. It’s what is happening inside the sub-cultures, families, and households of kids which matters most. And therefore, if a solution is to be found, it would be a change in those institutions.

        *The family is not the only factor as to why an individual child succeeds or fails in school. Bad teachers can exacerbate these problems, and good teachers make a difference. But when you find the persistence of an achievement gap–in virtually every part of the United States, including Davis–it is certainly far more than having good or bad teachers for an entire population. That evens itself out. The cultural/family variables persist.

        1. South of Davis

          Rich wrote:

          > I think the goal depends on who is doing the pointing out.

          Can you name some people or groups who are pointing out the “achievement gap” that are also saying we reduce public school funding and/or parcel taxes? I’m not saying there are not any, just that EVERY one of the thousands of people and groups I have met or read about are talking about the “achievement gap” also want more money for public schools…

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            I could be wrong, but I don’t recall any of David Greenwald’s articles on the achievement gap saying that the solution is more money. I infer that he thinks the heart of the problem is that somehow our schools in Davis (top-down) are failing melanin-rich children, and therefore to fix the achievement gap we need to change our teaching methods or administration, etc.

            In the past David wrote that the low number of black teachers at Davis High was a cause (not necessarily the cause) of some problems for black students. Back when he wrote that, a teacher (I don’t remember her name) used to post on the Vanguard (using her real name). She was (and I suppose still is) black. And she said the DJUSD had done a poor job of recruiting and retaining black teachers–something Greenwald also said. I am pretty sure that young woman chose to leave the district. I am not sure why.

            My own view is that it’s fine to reach out to prospective candidates from mostly black or Hispanic areas in order to attract good candidates. However, I don’t believe in using race or ethnicity or any other such factor in hiring or deciding who is best qualified. I also doubt that a group’s academic performance is raised or lowered based on how many teachers share that group’s heritage. However, I can see where, in a more homogenous population, it could be good for students to have teachers who come from different ethnic or racial backgrounds than the majority, simply to expose the students to differences they will experience in the wider world.

        2. Tia Will

          Rich

          I do not disagree with anything that you have said. But the pragmatic side of me says that there is very little that the school system can do to alter family dynamics. Therefore, the school system is left with dealing with the problems and optimizing the opportunities that are available to them even if this in not the major contributing problem. . It serves no one for the teachers or administrators to say “well this is mostly a familial problem” so we will just continue to function as we are and hope the child does well rather than continuing to try to improve.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            It serves no one for the teachers or administrators to say “well this is mostly a familial problem”

            I agree with all you say, except for that italicized sentence. I think it’s crucial to first understand what is driving the problem, if you are going to solve it. And since it is mostly within the family and the subculture, the solution is not to be found intramurally. Those who think the schools can change policies or teaching methods and substantially increase the academic performance of children from racial or ethnic groups which in general are underperforming are making a big mistake.

            the school system is left with dealing with the problems and optimizing the opportunities that are available to them

            This, in my opinion, is spot on. Schools need to accept kids as they are and make the best of it. If larger factors outside the walls of a school cause a kid to perform poorly in a college prep program, but the kid has talent and interest in other areas where he might be a productive citizen, schools need to optimize that opportunity.

            If, in Davis for example, a young woman who is not interested in going to a four-year college, but has an interest in licensed vocational nursing, our schools should nurture that opportunity. We should have, at the very least, a program which helps that girl become a nurse’s intern–it could be the school nurse; or it could be at a convalescent hospital or Sutter Davis or within some medical practice. We should also have guidance counselors for a girl like that who help her know the pathway to become, say, an LVN.

            Where we don’t optimize our opportunities, as far as I can see, is with children who, for various reasons, are not academically inclined. The idea seems to be to make these kids something they are not, rather than accept what they are and what they desire and find a productive outcome they will be happy with.

            What the Davis schools do well–and so do most other schools that serve kids who come from families like most in Davis–is prepare children for college. Everything is focused on college prep. At the least preparation for a 2-year school and then a transfer to a university. And that is great for most kids here. But it leaves out a good-sized minority, who either drop out or graduate and then have no work skills and no idea what they would like to do for a living.

            (Sadly, some kids who graduate from 4-year schools in the liberal arts are in a similar position. They have a load of debt, no work skills and no idea what they want to do to make a living. I think young people like that would be far better served by universities if, at the time they choose their majors, they got together with good guidance counselors and figured out a path which would build their skills for a career in a field they prefer.)

  5. Frankly

    Barbara Archer: O’Donoghue further notes that “a number of studies have found that the main determinant of student success in school is family income.”

    Being a determinant does not mean it is a primary cause, and it does nothing to keep bringing it up without a proposed solution because then it is only an excuse for why the system fails to adequately educate some kids. No matter what the socioeconomic status of the student population, the education system has a mission and mandate to adequately educate them. What other business can claim failure was the result of difficult customers and expect to stay in business?

    Chuck Rairdan: Each child has his or her own unique interests, talents, and learning style and we need to honor and respect those differences.

    This covers it all. The School Of One concept. If the education system would retool to be student-customer focused rather than teacher-employee focused, we would naturally progress to close the achievement gap as a result of greater individual student engagement. It was the failure of the system to take steps in this direction that led to NCLB and now Common Core. But national, state or even local standardization is the complete opposite of an individualized student approach.

    The education system as designed works well enough for only about 1/3 of the student population. In Davis it works well for maybe 1/2 of the population because of the high percentage of genetic academic gifted students. But the system as designed targets a constantly shrinking template learner that is increasingly more academically gifted or blessed with a more quickly developed frontal lobe (more often girls).

    The achievement gap for Davis schools is the result of less than adequate student engagement that is the product of a narrowing template learner tendency plus a sort of teacher laziness that develops with a higher percentage of students with genetic academic gifts. “Johnny, why can’t you be more like Sally?”

    emerging evidence that short, appropriately formulated psychological interventions at critical stages of a child’s education (transition to junior high school or high school for example) can help at risk children overcome their self-doubts and negative stereotypes about their abilities and lead to better long term academic performance.

    Here is my thinking on this.

    Bob Poppenga: I agree that we should have more counselors and more tutors. We should hire college students to help tutor students. But, if we improve engagement for all students by assessing their individual needs and creating an individualized custom learning path, we will not need so much behavior counseling.

    All IMO of course.

  6. Frankly

    I think cultural migration, immigration and Darwin-istic eugenics are not given the attention deserved to help explain achievement gaps. I understand the difficulty of the topics, but we should be open to them as we develop solutions.

    I read a very interesting thesis explaining why western Jews are so over-represented in certain professions and have greater economic success than other groups. The article discussed a sort of historical filtering that led to two of the four sects of Jews having higher IQs than other other groups.

    I think we all agree that culture matters. But we don’t like talking about other results of demographic filtering that occurs.

    For example, is the achievement gap with Latinos at least partially explained by the filtering of the types of people that would cross the border illegally to live in the US? Mexico and many other Latin American countries do have working economies, and there are ways to make a good life there. It appears that those least capable of securing a good life in these places are the ones taking the risks to come here illegally. So the US then is faced with an greater population of Latinos that are prone to more achievement struggle.

    Before I hear from posters about racist tones here, note that I don’t want us to use this as any excuse. Our child population is our child population. If we cannot adequately educate immigrant children for whatever reason, either we need to stop the flow of them to the country, or we need to change the education system to work well enough to ensure they are adequately educated.

    However, it would be good to recognize the origins of challenges so we can address them. The political left and the teachers unions can only point to socioeconomic differences and demand more money even though it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no correlation with education outcomes and the level of per-student funding. We might be doing some things right, but we are doing a lot of things wrong. Time to open up the dialog and get serious about making education a new pursuit of perfection.

    1. Don Shor

      is the achievement gap with Latinos at least partially explained by the filtering of the types of people that would cross the border illegally to live in the US?

      Why do you assume that the Latino population in Davis schools is here illegally?

      1. Frankly

        I don’t assume this, I am making the point that there is a larger influx of illegal immigrants and that it might be worth considering the filtering of certain traits that may explain some of the unique education challenges and needs.

        I would assume, all other things being equal, that a person coming here illegally and a person coming here legally would have some general and probable differences.

        Why do you think that immigrants in Davis schools would be any different than immigrants in other school districts?

        1. Don Shor

          I don’t see how you get to your hypothesis that the immigration status of the parents is going to make a statistically significant difference in the achievement gap of Hispanics in our schools overall.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      Is the achievement gap with Latinos at least partially explained by the filtering of the types of people that would cross the border illegally to live in the US? … It appears that those least capable of securing a good life in these places are the ones taking the risks to come here illegally.

      Putting aside for the moment whether Latinos come here legally or not–some do, some don’t–the question you ask could have been asked of most of the European ethnic groups which flooded here from the 1850s to the 1920s. And many Americans were asking that question then, especially about the poor, uneducated, unsophisticated refuse we were taking in from Southern Europe, Italy and Greece in particular. Those countries were more-less politically stable. They had functioning economies where most people were doing okay. But in their rural parts they were massively overpopulated with people who needed work and could not find it. So they fled to the U.S. for a better life. And, while most of these immigrants did very poorly here, their children, grandchildren and so on became successes for the most part and are now a big part of the American fabric.

      This is also pretty true of Mexicans who came to the U.S. after World War 2. That is, the immigrants were poor, but their descendants largely made successes of their lives. One thing locally I find interesting is how many farms and orchards in our region today are owned or leased by farmers with Spanish surnames. In most cases, I would guess, their parents came here as farm laborers, and they have moved up to own the farms. And the next generation will probably mostly not be farmers, but instead will move into urban, educated occupations.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Along these lines, I read an interesting article some years ago about Canadian immigration policies in the 1930s, which effectively prohibited Jews (fleeing the Nazis) from moving to Canada. Their idea back then was to keep out people who might succeed. They only wanted those who would remain at the bottom rung.

        The Canadian immigration minister (paraphrasing) said something like, “The Jew came here 20 and 30 years ago from Europe and said he would work in our factories, which was good, because we needed laborers. But in no time the Jew owned our factories, our banks, our stores and he is now the employer of our people in Canada. Today we need workers on our Western farms. The German Jew says he will go to Alberta and Manitoba and harvest our crops. But we know from experience he won’t stay there. He will move to the cities and take over all that is Canadian. So let him stay in Germany.”

        Mordecai Richler (a great Jewish-Canadian novelist) has written fictional and non-fictional accounts of how Canada kept Jews out of that country in the Nazi era. In a fictional account, he credits a fictional version of Samuel Bronfman, who otherwise seemed to be a bad guy, with bribing Canadian immigration officials to let in boatloads of Jews in the late-1930s. Bronfman was a poor immigrant to Canada who became a huge success in business, mostly with liquor, but also hotels, land development and oil. The best thing which happened to Bronfman, particularly his Seagram’s company, was Prohibition in the U.S. It was not illegal in Canada to make or sell liquor to Americans. But Prohibition made doing so extremely profitable.

        1. South of Davis

          Rich wrote:

          > Mordecai Richler (a great Jewish-Canadian novelist) has
          > written fictional and non-fictional accounts of how Canada
          > kept Jews out of that country in the Nazi era.

          I recently read an interesting article that said: “The Jewish portion of Harvard’s entering class dropped from nearly 30 percent in 1925 to 15 percent the following year and remained roughly static until the period of the Second World War”

          It also said that many Jews were working to get rid of “Jewish quotas” at Ivy League schools while at the same time working to keep in place or increase “Black & Latino quotas”.

          Since the “achievement gap” in most Jewish families is from unbelievably super smart to just real smart (vs. smart to not that smart for most other families) maybe we should get a group of “Jewish Mothers” to give input on what the schools are teaching,,,

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            It also said that many Jews were working to get rid of “Jewish quotas” at Ivy League schools while at the same time working to keep in place or increase “Black & Latino quotas”.

            It may have said that, but I don’t think it is true. Jews, even liberal ones, have historically opposed quotas for the very reason you note–they have been used to limit opportunities for Jews.

            From a 2003 article on this topic published by Jweekly:

            Only the Anti-Defamation League, one of the then-staunchest leaders of the national fight against affirmative action, has filed a brief opposing Michigan’s program.

            “The Jewish community is less concerned about affirmative action than it was 25 years ago,” said Marc Stern, legal director of the American Jewish Congress. “We’ve all shifted.”

            Leaders of Jewish groups said the rejection of quotas for affirmative action came largely in light of numerical limits on Jewish enrollment in European and American universities in the 1920s.

            “It’s the quota concept that’s anathema,” said Jeffrey Sinensky, director of public policy for the American Jewish Committee, which will be submitting a brief in defense of the university.

            In the 1970s, the then-head of the ADL, Nathan Perlmutter, was among the national leaders in the fight against affirmative action, calling for a ban on all race-based criteria for admissions.

  7. wdf1

    Jose Granda: It is a disappointment, for those who believe the Davis Schools are the best, to face reality. They are not performing to their best. According to the report published by the Sacramento Bee Sunday, February 5, 2012, Davis schools do not even place within the first 15 in the area from API (Academic Performance Index) scores. So there is an achievement gap. What to do?

    This article with data is no longer available online (as far as I know). But I remember at the time reviewing data from all 15 of the schools in the list. API scores were aggregate averaged standardized test scores for the whole school population. Most of the schools did not have as high a concentration of ELL or low-SES students.

    One reason that using standardized test scores to measure the quality of education is faulty is that test scores consistently correlate with SES level. What NCLB demonstrated is that schools in lower income areas had worse performance (and hypothetically worse teachers) than higher income/educated areas.

    Granda’s has a faulty understanding for the value of standardized test scores for making judgements like this.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for