In the aftermath of the implementation of AIM reforms enacted in November, with a recent update showing a loss of diversity in the program as well as concerns about the ongoing achievement gap and efforts to deal with it through LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) and Common Core, the Vanguard has reached out to school board member Susan Lovenburg to get her thoughts on some of these key issues.
Her responses are below.
- What are your thoughts on the progress of the AIM reform? Do you have concerns about the underrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics among those currently identified? Do you have concerns about identifying only 46 students this year at the hypothetical 98th percentile?
I believe we are making good progress with reforms to the AIM assessment protocol, and I’m pleased we’ve been able to achieve some measure of consensus on the board in doing so. As I expressed in our most recent board discussion, I do have a concern that the protocol is not yet identifying an AIM cohort that matches the student demographic profile of our district. I reject the notion that some races or ethnicities have a higher incidence of giftedness than others.
We’ve already made some refinements to the assessment protocol in response to what we learned in the first year, and we’ll continue to focus on getting it right. Key to the approach is using multiple measures and tying the right assessment tool to each significant risk factor. In addition, the Hope Scale, which will be fully implemented next year, provides the benefit of teacher observation and evaluation in addition to the standardized tests.
The number of students identified is not particularly significant to me. I am most concerned with making sure we have a protocol that identifies those most in need of AIM services, and in fully implementing differentiated instruction in all classrooms in Davis.
- What do you see as the key to alleviating the achievement gap?
I think the achievement gap is an outdated way of looking at what is really an opportunity gap which affects children and families in poverty, and too often that means children of color. While schools are first and foremost about teaching and learning and we must continue to build a collaborative culture to improve practice, we also need to make sure we have opportunities for students to feel and be connected to the school environment and the community. My thinking about the right policy choices to affect change has been influenced by Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam and Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts and Systems by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn. I highly recommend both to anyone interested in what we need to do to close the opportunity gap.
- The district has an increasing Title One population – and is increasingly diverse – what kinds of resources can the district bring to help those students who might otherwise be left behind?
The district’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is focused on just this question. Last year we were able to allocate about $400,000 to increased nursing time, elementary counselors, professional development for teachers focused on Common Core and the needs of at risk students, career technical education for career readiness, and implementation of a student survey to more fully assess climate issues at each campus. This year we are assessing the success of those efforts, and the LCAP Advisory is looking at proposals to recommend how $170,000 should be allocated to further improve services for English Language Learners, low socio-economic or homeless students, and foster youth. I hope to see a continued focus on better connecting our at risk students to a positive school experience with high expectations for academic and social success.
- Are you concerned with the heavy concentration of low income and Title One students at Montgomery? How can the district better represent their needs? Should the district look into changes?
This continues to be one of the questions I struggle with most. Philosophically, I do not agree that we should allow a higher concentration of low socio-economic students in any Davis school, given the many resources we have in this community. However, the current situation has given us the opportunity to focus more resources on the Montgomery student population – lower class sizes, preschool and transitional kindergarten, a dual immersion program, English and Math instructional supports, and the Bridge afterschool program. We’ve been patient to see if these focused services are providing a strong benefit to our kids. Ultimately, though, if we don’t make the needed progress, we’ll have to revisit our options.