Adams on Achievement Gap and Common Core

Adams-TomEditor’s Note: The Vanguard received no response from Tom Adams to our question last week on the Achievement Gap and this week on Common Core. The Vanguard reached out to a mutual contact and learned that Mr. Adams had not received our questions.

We sent him the questions yesterday around midday and Mr. Adams returned them by the evening. We are publishing his responses here.

If the readers wish to compare those responses to the other candidates, they can do so by clicking the links below.

Question 1: Achievement Gap
Question 2: Common Core

Achievement Gap Question: ( 250 to 350 words) 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?

Davis does have an achievement gap but it is hidden by the high performance of its students. We should continue to support all students and ensure they reach their full potential. On September 18, the Davis school board received an assessment report and noted the different achievement levels in science. However, in the presentation slides, there was no mention of how student achievement breaks down by ethnicity, race, and gender. This information does not inform how the district is meeting its goal of closing the achievement gap. To address this goal, the board and administration must examine the data from all aspects and see where the achievement gap is. One noticeable trend is that student achievement declines in the upper grades. While at the elementary level 82% are proficient and above and at the middle school level 85% are proficient and above in science, at the high school only 75.5% are proficient and above. Why is there a decrease in student achievement in science and an increase in those students who are basic and below? Who is declining in achievement? The breakdown of student data into ethnicity, race, and gender can be done and has been done. When I was on the site council at Cesar Chavez, we analyzed achievement data by ethnicity and gender and used it as the basis for directing limited resources. I wish to apply my experience at the district level and have a full discussion of student achievement and the gaps that exist. In short, I want to affirm a strategy of the Strategic Plan:

We will develop and implement a district-wide assessment system aligned with the Common Core Standards to effectively analyze student performance data at more frequent intervals in order to improve instruction, close the achievement gap, and ensure that all students meet or exceed district standards. (emphasis added)

Common Core Question: What do you know of Common Core?  How is Common Core being implemented in Davis?  What do you think should be done to further implement Common Core in Davis?

Since the early initial drafts in 2009 to present, I have worked with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects and Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. After the adoption of the Common Core Standards by the State Board in 2010, my division (Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources) at the California Department of Education and the Instructional Quality Commission developed curriculum guides to support their implementation, Mathematics Curriculum Framework ( and the English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) Curriculum Framework ( In addition, my division has conduct reviews of supplemental instructional materials in mathematics and English language arts that bridge the gap between existing instructional materials and the Common Core. My division and the Instructional Quality Commission reviewed 34 mathematics programs for alignment to the Common Core ( ) and is beginning the review of ELA/ELD instructional materials. (If you are interested, please apply to be a reviewer at As for the Davis school district, it has already begun a thoughtful transition to Common Core mathematics and its transition plan was presented to the California State Board of Education as a model program. Regarding English language arts, the district was already ahead of the Common Core, as many teachers were emphasizing foundational skills at the early grades, shifting to reading comprehension at the later grades, and always acknowledging the importance of written and oral communication. If there is an area of needed greater focus, it is English language development standards (ELD) ( These are new standards and staff development is necessary, not simply for the specialists who teach designated ELD but also for those teachers who have English learners and need to integrate the ELD standards into the different content areas. Before spending funds on instructional materials, the district should have a thoughtful professional development plan informed by the needs of teachers and principals.

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.

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  1. DurantFan

    A Question for All School Board Candidates:

    Poverty and lack of opportunity can negatively affect achievement in young (elementary school) students among others. As you know from recent developments, many young students living within the Royal Oak Mobile Home Park area continue to face a variety of adverse real life conditions that clearly reduce their ultimate potential to achieve academically.

    Fortunately for them, It appears that the Marguerite Montgomery Elementary (MME) School trachers and support staff are doing an excellent job in reducing the achievement gap by maintaining a loving, personable, welcoming, and learning “oasis” for the young children from the Park. Even though the Park may not technically be “withiin” the City of Davis, MME certainly “is”. As such, this situation is certainly within the jurisdiction of the School Board, and resource allocation should be an issue (among others*) during the current School Board election.
    * Should these students be offered the option to attend Pioneer Elementary School, for example?

    Please provide your thoughts/ concerns regarding this matter if you desire. Thank you.

  2. South of Davis

    Durant Fan

    > Poverty and lack of opportunity can negatively affect achievement in
    > young (elementary school) students among others.

    What is “lack of opportunity” and how does this “affect achievement”?

    > Should these students be offered the option to attend Pioneer
    > Elementary School, for example?

    I’m pretty sure that any parent in the district can already apply to transfer to a different school.

    1. Don Shor

      I’m pretty sure that any parent in the district can already apply to transfer to a different school.

      Correct, but there are some who believe they should not have that option.

    2. wdf1

      SoD: I’m pretty sure that any parent in the district can already apply to transfer to a different school.

      Under many conditions it’s required by law. Patwin, Birch Lane, North Davis, Montgomery, and Korematsu have been in various phases of Program Improvement under No Child Left Behind. Under those conditions, the district is required to allow parents from those schools to transfer their kids to schools that are not in Program Improvement, as space is available. Schools not in Program Improvement are Willett, Pioneer, and Chavez Elementaries. Generally such opportunities create more stratification of students, especially by income level.

      The interesting thing is that for a few of the initial years that Montgomery Elementary was in program improvement, MME yielded the highest standardized test scores for students who were *non* low SES (Socio-Economic Status). That meant that if you were a higher SES family, then test scores suggested that you would get a superior education at MME than at any other school in Davis. But NCLB didn’t necessarily allow the district to tout that fact (and it would have been somewhat crass to do so). So in later years the proportion of lower income students increased at Montgomery as higher income families left, as permitted under NCLB.

  3. wdf1

    Common Core standards discuss the following objectives for grades kindergarten & first grade, source, pg. 15:

    Both the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy and CA ELD Standards for kindergarten and grade one reflect the importance of language development. Each strand of the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy includes attention to language. For example, children learn to determine the meaning of words and phrases in texts in the reading strand (RL/RI.K-1.4). Children make progress toward crafting their written language (including through dictation) in such a way as to express an opinion (W.K-1.1), inform or explain (W.K-1.2), and narrate events (W.K-1.3). In doing so they employ different text structures, grammatical structures, and vocabulary. They build skill in the effective use of language as they engage in focused discussions on grade-level topics and texts (SL.K-1.1). And, they build skill in determining the meaning of words that are used in texts and in grade-level content (L.K-1.4), examining word relationships (L.K-1.5) and appropriately using new language (L.K-1.6). The CA ELD Standards in total center on building ELs’ proficiency in the range of rigorous academic English language skills necessary for participation in and achievement of grade-level content. The CA ELD Standards amplify the emphasis on language development and language awareness in the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy.

    One criticism of Common Core State Standards here is that it is developmentally questionable to expect children of this age to understand the difference between fact and opinion. Diane Ravitch, historian of public education in the U.S. and critic of U.S. public education (mostly various reform efforts over the years), has grown especially critical of CCSS for various reasons. This is an example: Nevada: Can a 5-Year-Old Write a Fact and Opinion Paper?

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