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 the school board members to get their thoughts on these key issues.
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?
The AIM identification process ensures consistency and transparency. While the district has new assessments, there is an understanding that we will need to look at other available tests for improving the identification process. As for African American and Latino/Latina students, this is an ongoing concern and we will need to have the most appropriate assessment for identifying all of our AIM students. The AIM Assessment Team ensures a variety of educators are involved in the identification of students.
What do you see as the key to alleviating the achievement gap?
Closing the achievement gap is not done easily or overnight, but there are some actions that can be done now. First, Davis must make sure that all of its students feel welcomed and that the district cares about meeting their needs. The annual survey of school climate will tell us whether students feel connected to their school and that they have a safe learning environment. Expanding funding for elementary counselors is another step in ensuring our students’ social-emotional needs are met. As for long-term solutions, preschool provides the opportunity to connect early with students, and Davis should expand its existing preschool efforts. Preschool will ensure social and emotional development, while broadening pre-literacy skills, such as vocabulary development. Closing the achievement gap must also be targeted at the middle school and high school levels as well. Culturally relevant curriculum is also a necessary step, as students must be able to see themselves in the topics that they study. In addition, we must make sure that we address the needs of any long-term English learners. We cannot give up on any of our students and we will need to be innovative in our approaches.
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?
First, we should see all of our students as assets. They come to us to learn and we must provide a variety of opportunities to learn. Flexibility in our instructional strategies is important and differentiated instruction is a key component. At the same time, parent engagement is necessary, as parents must be in position to support their students. Low socio-economic status students must have the full array of educational opportunities and must not be limited in curricular choices. By focusing on the whole child, we will be able to see that every child deserves a full education, including the arts.
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?
All of Davis students bring knowledge and experience that can contribute to everyone’s education. Students in all the different schools will need their own unique set of services, and the diversity of student populations will only enrich our schools. If you look at our student demographics, you will see the entire district has 25% of students in lower socio-economic status. Some of these are in Montgomery and others are in other schools throughout the district. For me the question is not where the students are but are they getting the needed services. If you visit the Montgomery campus and talk to the principal, teachers and staff, you will see that they care about their students and wish to bring a joy of learning to all of them. I think this is true for all of our schools.