By Nicholas von Wettberg
It should be an eventful next few weeks for the Davis school board, which meets on Thursday at the Community Chambers.
One of the action/discussion items on the meeting agenda is a presentation report, by way of Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) staff, about closing the achievement and opportunity gap for English-language learners, or English as a second language (ELS).
Included in the report will be information on the problem that was gathered nearly a decade ago by a district-led Achievement Gap Task Force, which, following its studies from December 2006 to May 2007, made a list of recommendations for the board.
Current outcomes, resulting from those recommendations, will be used in the upcoming report as a barometer of success.
For example, one recommendation asked for the hiring of an English-language specialist at Patwin Elementary School.
Fast forward to the present, and an EL specialist is employed at every elementary site in the district.
At a board meeting last month, when the achievement/opportunity gap discussion centered on testing scores, it was trustee Barbara Archer who brought up the task force and its recommendations, asking about specific results and commenting on the importance of “knowing our history.”
Spring tests results, for district students in grades 3-8 & grade 11, reveal a gulf in language arts and mathematics achievement levels, for kids falling under the categories of ELS and low socio-economic status (SES).
Unfortunately, there has been little to no change in the type of student affected most by disparities in learning.
The task force found that, when using the data provided through California Standards Test (CST), there were “disproportionately high percentages of the following groups of students in the Davis School District grades 2-11 (that) are not performing to their academic potential.”
Included among the groups were Latinos, African-Americans, SES students, and English learners – in particular, those living in Spanish-speaking households.
Days from now, Davis voters head to the polls, where they will decide the fate of two interrelated local educational matters.
The first subject concerns the school board and its membership.
Two of the board’s five seats are up for grabs, with current trustees Susan Lovenburg and Alan Fernandes both vying to retain their positions.
Also in the race is longtime Davis resident Jose Granda and UC Davis professor Bob Poppenga.
While the school board does have the final say on the terms of a school parcel tax, measures like the one Davis residents are preparing to vote on this Tuesday have been the norm for over three decades.
If passed by a majority two-thirds vote, Measure H, which combines two previous measures, costs eligible participants $620 per year over an eight-year span.
The money generated from the taxes (totaling $9.5 million) would account for roughly 12 percent of the budget, maintaining current services and programs for a district constrained under the current state funding system.
Results of the school board election should be finalized by the time the next regular meeting rolls around, which is set for Thursday, November 17.
The action/discussion item, scheduled for that evening, is a presentation on the district’s AIM program.