October 2013 Town Hall Meetings: Questions and Answers from Superintendent Evans
Dr. Donald Evans became Superintendent of Berkeley Public Schools in July 2013. As part of his entry and engagement with the Berkeley community, Dr. Evans held three Town Hall meetings in October 2013. Following a brief presentation of his initial insights, priorities and vision for the Berkeley Public Schools, Dr. Evans responded to a wide range of questions and suggestions about areas of concern, pride, and focus for the Berkeley Public Schools. Issues raised included curriculum and teaching, student achievement, engagement and outcomes, family and community involvement, and allocation of resources. Dr. Evans offered to post his responses online in order to provide more detail in key areas. (Please note: similar questions were consolidated.)
The Town Hall questions and responses do not of course reflect all of the current priorities and goals for the District, as the topics are reflective of questions raised in the Town Halls. Superintendent Evans also sends weekly email messages to all staff that are archived on his webpage.
There will be a Community Forum at LeConte Elementary School at 7:00 on December 3 to discuss the new Local Control Funding Formula and the associated Local Control Accountability Plan at which there will be a discussion of district priorities for allocation of state funding. We hope you will join us.
Student Achievement & Strategies to Promote Student Success
What do you think is preventing the achievement gap from being closed in Berkeley?
There are so many variables that contribute to the achievement gap in Berkeley and across the country. The question is, what can be done to ensure that all of our students are proficient or above? When I look at some of our schools that have done a great job at addressing this issue, I’ve noticed the following systems in place:
High expectations for all students,
Clear goals for all students,
No excuses for low performance or behavior,
Targeted instruction for struggling students,
Systems in place to monitor academics, instruction and behavior,
Appropriate rewards or incentives for students,
Compact with parents (agreement aligning specific expectations and goals for students).
What will you do to provide the GATE and high achieving students with the support they need?
The new Common Core Standards are rigorous and challenging and provide opportunities for teachers to differentiate instruction and meet the needs of kids in their classrooms, including meeting the needs of those who are high achieving. Our Teachers on Special Assignment (TSA’s) assist teachers in the classroom by providing additional support and resources in form of lessons and coaching to ensure that all our students are challenged.
Do you expect that all graduates will attend college? If so, how will you prepare this heterogeneous population of students? If not, how will you prepare those that do not go to college for the work force?
I don’t believe that every child will go to college. However, I do believe that ALL students should be PREPARED academically if they want to go. I’ve met many kids that do not feel college is right for them. My nephew was one of those students. Even though this was hard for me to digest, I have come to recognize that there are viable options available to him as a result of his decision. In order to provide additional options for students, I strongly believe that we need to strengthen our Career and Technical Education program.
What does “college and career ready” mean to you and do you believe both are important?
Students need to be prepared socially and academically to face the challenges of life after high school. I believe that we owe it to students to provide a solid academic foundation to support what endeavor they might chose. Whether it is a technical career or the pursuit of a four-year education, a solid foundation that builds or leads to a career pathway is critical for success.
What ideas do you have to positively affect the drop-out rate?
We have one of the lowest drop-out rates in the state. Our Drop-Out Rate is 14.4% overall, with a Drop-Out Rate of 11.2% at Berkeley High School (one of the lowest in the County). Reducing the Drop-Out Rate requires catching at-risk students early in their educational process, through programs such as Bridge, Middle School Bridge and Early Start. By the way, of the 240 African-American students who began in the BUSD in kindergarten, and entered 12th grade last year, 190 graduated, 34 transferred to another school, 14 exited as Non Grads, and 2 are currently continuing 12th graders for a fifth year of high school.
Kids of color with special needs seem to lose interest in the 3rd and 4th grade. What do you think should be done for critical thinking and challenging their intellects academically and socially?
I am a big supporter of the work that is being done around positive behavior support in our schools and teaching social-emotional intelligence through role playing, community building, and giving students tools they can use to manage their emotions.
We are also very lucky to have the level of programming in the visual and performing arts that is available in Berkeley. A student’s experience in the arts is often key to continued engagement. Thanks to local funding provided through the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP), all of our fourth and fifth grade students are provided with an instrument of their choosing and participate in instrumental music instruction, for example.
With regard to academics, I am pleased with the increasing use of informational texts and the real world applications that our students are experiencing with the arrival of the Common Core Standards. I think this will have a big impact on improving the engagement of all of our kids, and especially for students of color.
Where do emotional skills fall into your priorities?
My priorities include a focus on meeting the needs of every child. One way in which I am doing this is to focus on professional development and school site planning for and implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS). It is essential that students have the social-emotional skills to be fully engaged in the learning process.
Can the district support physical fitness and athletics – really support them – not just give lip service?
There are required instructional minutes that are mandated from the state for Physical Education, and I know that schools often use school resources to augment what is available to students, including dance.
In terms of our athletics programs, the middle schools offer after-school sport programs that are popular with students. The degree to which we support athletic programs at the high school depends on the budget and the priorities of the district. Our challenge is that if the district allocates more money to the athletic programs, we need to take away from other programs that are arguably just as important.
How will assistance for McKinney/Vento funding be improved?
In 2012-2013, Berkeley Unified School District restructured the McKinney/Vento program to assure that homeless students receive school-based and district services including counseling, community resources, and other support for students and families in need in accordance with the McKinney/Vento Act. In addition, through the state’s new longitudinal data system (California Longitudinal Pupil Data and Assessment System – CALPADS), we are now able to ensure that all students are being served.
Cultural and Linguistic Relevance
What changes would you make in Berkeley Unified so children of color and children who speak a language other than English can thrive socially and academically?
Creating an environment in which all students feel successful is important to me. I understand that there has been a lot of work with teachers and staff in Berkeley around what a culturally and linguistically responsive school and classroom looks like and feels like. We can do more work in designing positive behavior supports for students that are accessible and fair, and I am pleased that students are developing social-emotional intelligence through programs like Welcoming Schools. We need to grow opportunities for family engagement so that all of the adults in our students’ lives are working together to support their social, emotional, and academic growth.
For students of color, a classroom should be enriched with culturally relevant teaching practices, including reading materials and posters of significant historical figures, that refer to people that look like them. Also, having positive role models of color visiting and speaking to classes is another way for BUSD students to see and hear local people of color succeeding and thriving both academically and socially in our environment.
For English Learners (EL), I believe the recently approved Master Plan for English Learners provides guidance and tools in support of best practices. Explicit teaching of academic language is important for setting our EL students up for success.
How can we best serve students of color who are struggling?
The best prescription for any student struggling academically is targeted instruction. Knowing specifically what the problem is, and developing a plan for a student mastering specific standards is critical to a student’s success. Diagnosing the problem or issue early is always best, as many times as students get older, the problem gets larger and students become so frustrated that they become uninvolved with school. When students are struggling, they need both academic support (tutoring) and emotional support (mentoring) in order to succeed.
What would you do to keep high-achieving students of color enrolled in BUSD?
In spite of some of the alarming statistics on students of color, we do have quite a few students of color in our schools who are doing well. Unfortunately, especially for many of our high-achieving African American boys, peer pressure can be a distraction from the academics. To combat that problem, we must provide more engaging activities and clubs, as well as peer and mentoring programs for these students.
What are your plans for high-achieving African American students?
My goal is to build upon the programs we already have in place for high-achieving African American students, such as Berkeley Scholars (a program providing mentors and tutors to support continued high achievement). In addition, at the high school level I believe in counselors working with African American students directly to ensure that they have access to an enriching and rigorous curriculum, and increase the number of students enrolled in AP and honors classes. We want all of our students to be constantly engaged, enriched, and challenged in programs and classes. This is critical to their continued success. Most importantly, we need to make sure that these students are supported with the resources, like tutoring and mentoring, that they need so that they do not fall between the cracks.
What is your plan to diversify the staff at all levels, especially teachers and administration?
We’re making every effort to actively recruit teachers and administrators of color. Also, we’re looking at ways we can support the teachers and administrators of color that are presently working in the district to ensure retention of qualified educators of color.
Do you have a vision to close the gap between our largely white teaching staff and our large minority support staff?
At the same time as we attempt to diversify our teaching staff, it’s important to recognize that there are role models of color that students can identify with and build positive relationships with outside of the classroom. We have outstanding role models among our bus drivers, administrators and administrative support, and others who are both involved with our students and behind the scenes, and we could do more to let our students know about all of the people who are working to support student success.
How will you address parental accountability for student performance?
It’s hard to mandate parents to do many things. However, we can mandate them to send their child to school. Once students come to school, it’s our job to teach them. When parents are not involved, it can make our job more difficult, especially when there are learning or behavioral issues that need to be addressed. In this case, a parent contract with the school is an effective way to hold a parents accountable for their child’s learning.
How can the district address the problem of parents who don’t ensure that their children get to school?
We have a process (SARB) in place that notifies families of the importance of attendance when children are chronically tardy or absent, and provides an avenue for interventions. Attendance at Berkeley High School has improved due to several strategies directed at reducing chronic absenteeism, including school on Saturday for students to work on missed assignments or to receive tutoring services.
How can we get parents of struggling students to come to school?
I think it’s important for us to reach out to these parents and ask them the best way to communicate with them. Some parents work during school hours and others may work in the afternoon and at night and can’t get to the school after school or in the evening. Whatever the reason might be, we must find ways to communicate their child’s progress with them and to partner with us.
How do you plan on improving communication between the classroom and home?
Schools are encouraged to provide on-going communication with parents through school events, email, phone calls, written notes, and newsletters, and to not just rely on one form of communication to reach everyone. The Office of Family Engagement and Equity is working directly in six elementary schools as part of a pilot project to improve the school to home relationship. We know that parent involvement positively impacts student achievement. We are finding that, by having a staff person dedicated to family engagement, parents gain an entry point for engaging with what goes on at school.
What collaborations might you be prepared to make with organizations that are already doing work in the community to bring a diverse and community-driven solution to challenges within the district?
I feel that collaborations are important as it does indeed take a village to raise a child. We are fortunate to be based in a community with so many resources and organizations focused on positive change. At the same time, bringing it all into focus is a challenge. The first step is to develop a list of all the organizations working in the district. It’s important to find out what they’re doing and how effective they have been with our students so that we can evaluate partnerships with these programs. I would like to continue programs that are working, and build on those partnerships as they help the district achieve its goals. In order for the district to achieve its mission, it will take partnerships outside the district contributing expertise, support and resources, and doing so in a way that is focused on making the greatest impact on behalf of our students and families.
Do you think the 2020 vision is realistic and how will you make it happen? What is missing from the plan?
There are eight key indicators in the 2020 Vision:
Increasing Kindergarten Readiness,
Third Grade Reading Fluency,
Ninth Grade Math Achievement,
Career and College Readiness,
Reducing Disproportionality of Suspensions / Expulsions, and
Reducing Police Contacts.
While we have made some progress in some of these key indicator areas, we still have work to do to achieve the 2020 Vision goal of eliminating the racial predictability of outcomes. What is missing are clear measurable outcomes for every indicator, along with celebrated successes along the way. We have an amazing partnership with the city, University, and community. We need to really work hard to make the most of these partnerships which could benefit from an effective communication plan that captures the essence of the work going on and allows us to make modifications as we implement various services/programs to address the goals of the 2020 Vision.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments
How do you help teachers and administrators use data to make instructional decisions?
As the District implements educational programs designed to improve student achievement, staff must be able to assess the effectiveness of these programs in meeting their goals. The District established the Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment (BEA) office in 2007 (thanks to local funding through BSEP) to use data to achieve five major goals:
(1) Improve teachers’ instruction and students’ learning.
(2) Improve the ability of School Governance Councils to make decisions about the effective use of site resources.
(3) Improve the ability of the School Board, staff and the public to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of instructional programs in order to maximize the use of scarce resources.
(4) Administer and oversee State-mandated and District-wide assessments.
(5) Develop and maintain a central data warehouse to provide real-time web-based student information to staff members with access to district indicators, drillable to the site, classroom and student level.
Using IlluminateEd software and other tools, the BEA office has been been able to provide data and reports instrumental to improvements made in all five goal areas.
What do you think about “teaching to the test”? How and why are test scores important?
While I personally do not believe in teaching directly to the test, I do believe in teaching what kids need to know at each grade level which helps to prepare them for the test. This can be done in a variety of ways. I believe in teaching standards through real life applications, which makes lessons more meaningful and memorable to the student.
We use formative classroom assessments to monitor the ongoing progress of our students. These assessments help us track and monitor student progress. Through the results, we’re able to create intervention/acceleration programs as well as differentiate and personalize classroom instruction.
Tests will always be important in part because our society looks to shared standards to gauge how well we’re doing in comparison to other students, schools, districts and states.
Is the district looking at trends across years to help guide policy?
Yes, throughout the year, the School Board is presented with data that looks at trends across years at the District and school site level to inform policy. (Each board meeting packet contains the dates for such data presentations). These presentations include a review of:
Academic Performance Index
Adequate Yearly progress
District Indicators of Progress towards closing the achievement Gap
Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives for English Learners
2020 Vision Indicators of Progress
Single Plans for Student Achievement
Is BUSD tracking achievement by gender? What are your thoughts on this topic?
Yes, gender is among the categories that achievement data is disaggregated, though there has not been significant discrepancies beyond what is found in state and national data. Last year, BUSD did a longitudinal review of achievement on the California Standards Test, as well as graduation rate by gender. The district looked at performance by gender and whether there was a difference in achievement overall and by race and ethnicity. Our findings were that girls out-performed boys in high school, but not by a margin equal to the most recent research showing state and national trends.
Beyond standardized tests, how will we know we are adequately serving our kids?
In Berkeley, we do not depend solely on standardized tests; we use multiple measures to inform how we are serving our students. The measures we use include: Attendance, D and F Rates, Suspensions, Incidents, Graduation Rates, Positive Behavior, Interventions, and Common Assessments. These results are reported both at the school and the district level.
Is homework a data-driven approach?
It can be. If a teacher gives homework based on what a child just learned in class that same day, and finds out that the majority of students missed the same question or made the same mistake, this information can be used by the teacher to form a different approach or teaching strategy to take with the students in re-teaching the lesson or concept.
Will the district ever adopt a homework policy?
This hasn’t been brought to my attention before. As I mentioned previously, homework that is used to reinforce and assess student understanding of skills and topics can be useful if it is reviewed the very next day so that teachers can focus in areas in which individuals or the class needs more support.
Why aren’t elementary students given textbooks?
All subject content areas have textbooks and/or an adopted curriculum for use in the classroom. However, being that we are in a period of transition to the Common Core, we have been moving away from using a curriculum that is not aligned to the new grade level standards of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. An example of this is in our new elementary math program in which we are piloting A Story of Units. The materials for this Common Core-aligned math curriculum are not available in a printed textbook or workbook format—we are using photocopied materials made available by the curriculum’s authors.
Curriculum and Instruction / Common Core
Why is the Common Core emphasizing increased usage of non-fiction texts?
Current research says that most of what students will read in college and in the workplace is not fiction, but texts that are “informational in structure.” The Common Core Standards indicate that by fourth grade, half of what students read should be informational text, while by 12th grade, students should be reading non-fiction 70 percent of the time. This will help prepare them for the kinds of readings they will encounter in college and the workplace.
What supports are going to be offered to teachers during the transition to Common Core?
We have provided, and continue to provide, professional development/training to teachers. In addition to the three full days reserved for professional development, our teachers and staff have dedicated time every week for collaborating and sharing best practices. We are fortunate to have local BSEP funding for Teachers on Special Assignment who work to further best practices in the classroom and are critical to successful implementation of the Common Core.
Literacy coaches in every elementary school lead discussions of best practices for teaching the Common Core Standards. More non-fiction and informational texts have been ordered for our schools so that teachers and students have access to the instructional materials they need.
We also have a dynamic team of math educators working at all grade levels to transition to teaching the new math standards. This is certainly a big transition year for the way we teach math.
In keeping up with the increasing demand for technology, we were able to hire an additional Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) funded out of new state Common Core monies to increase coaching and collaborations for teachers in the use of instructional technology. Teachers are also receiving direct support to expand student use of the new Chromebooks in every school.
Curriculum and Instruction / Teachers
How does each school site ensure that teachers who teach the same subject are teaching equally well and presenting quality content?
While every teacher’s goal is to teach in a way that all students can master the grade level standards, there are many tools and practices that support successful delivery of the curriculum.
Principals at each school are charged with monitoring instruction. They are in classrooms daily and can provide support to teachers to ensure quality instruction is being delivered to students. Teachers are also encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues to share best practices in grade levels and subject specific departments. Curriculum mapping and common assessments are also used to guide instructional practice and the pace of delivery.
Ideally, what would all BUSD sites focus on in professional development next year?
Professional Learning Communities
Use of technology to inform and enhance instruction
How do you ensure that teachers are evaluated? If they are not teaching up to standards, what happens?
Every teacher is on a schedule to be evaluated. Administrators receive regular notices of employees to evaluate, along with regular reminders of due dates. Part of the evaluation includes the principal observing the teacher’s classroom and providing direct feedback based on an evaluation tool. We’re aggressively monitoring this and have been successful in the last few years in adhering to the schedule and in accordance with to the evaluation tool. If there are concerns regarding employee performance, we’re identifying the areas of need and developing a plan of support to ensure improvement.
How will you work with the teacher’s union and principals to remove teachers who are not effective in their positions (including those with seniority and tenure)?
Every school provides opportunities for teachers and staff to work on their professional skills. Administrators at every school are in classrooms observing teaching and learning, and giving teachers and staff feedback and support.
For teachers identified as needing additional support, we currently have a process known as BPAR (Berkeley Peer Assistance Review). Peer mentoring and coaching is structured to support the teacher in ways that will bring them and their students success in the classroom. Whether it is through modeling instruction, coaching, or peer assistance, a plan with measurable outcomes should be in place for that teacher. We also work with the teachers’ union to identify best approaches based on individual teacher needs.
What changes will you make so that veteran teachers are rejuvenated in their teaching and don’t succumb to teacher burnout?
By encouraging teachers to participate in Professional Learning Communities with colleagues, teachers can be energized, motivated and challenged by their peers. I believe it is truly invigorating to focus on the following questions that Dufour describes are the essence of a professional learning community:
What do we want students to learn?
How will we know that they learned it?
What do we do when they don’t get it?
What do we when they did get it?
How do you encourage/empower teachers to change their teaching to include accepted best practices?
It’s important for the leader of the school to create an environment in which teachers can reflect and share best practices in grade levels and in departments. One way of doing this is through Professional Learning Communities. Time must be set aside during the week for teachers to come together and share what’s working or not working in their classroom as it relates to student learning.
How can we assure teacher excellence and also a teacher’s freedom to be creative?
The professional teaching standards provide an excellent framework for what constitutes excellence. These standards set the expectations for all of our teachers. In addition to the teaching standards, we also have standards that we expect students to master as they relate to grade level and content. With the new Common Core standards in place right now, teachers have the freedom to be creative as they differentiate instruction for a group of diverse learners in one classroom.
What is your expectation of teachers, staff and administrators as far as returning phone calls or email communications?
I know it can be frustrating for parents not to get an immediate response from a teacher or other staff member. However, with teachers and staff serving students for most of their work day, having the time to respond to each email or catch a parent by phone is challenging. That said, it is my expectation that staff return calls or emails in a timely manner. Communication with parents is important if we are to be successful with their child.
Curriculum and Instruction / Technology
How do you plan to infuse 21st century skills into BUSD classrooms? Do you see this as a priority?
This is a high priority for me as the Common Core changes our curriculum and teaching practices. The Common Core initiative underscores the importance of using technology as part of the learning process: “Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use…. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals…. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline.”
This means that both students and adults in the district should be able to thrive in the digital environment of the 21st century. However, we need to remember that technology tools are just one of the means to an end goal — the ability to provide reasoned solutions and communicate succinctly and effectively, whatever the medium.
The answers to the questions below shed more light on how we will go about using technology to support goals for students.
How is the district planning to create world class technology resources for students?
There are three levels where the district has initiatives relative to technology:
1) Working with teachers to increase integration of technology into lessons
2) Creating a baseline amount of standard devices (e.g. Chromebooks) in schools
3) Improving the the wireless network and network backbone to provide digital services to users.
Let’s unpack those a little bit:
#1: With the one-time Common Core funds from the state this year, the district bought 570 Chromebooks and hired another Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) for Technology. For many years there has been a Technology TSA at the high school, and starting four years ago, a Technology TSA was added at the K-8 level (primarily funded by BSEP). Having two K-8 TSAs has reinvigorated our ability to help teachers optimize the use of technology in the classroom.
#2: The district has chosen Chromebooks as the standard device students will use for the coming Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) being piloted this spring, and completely replacing the California Standards Tests (CSTs) in spring 2015. The SBA are completely electronic, featuring computer-adaptive tests that will more accurately assess the full-range of students’ abilities.
There are over 1050 Chromebook laptops currently in the district. Chromebooks provide a standard interface for students, are inexpensive, start up quickly, and integrate with Google Apps for Education where the students save documents in the cloud, so students can easily access their materials from whatever classroom they are in, or even from home. The Chrome operating system updates automatically, making life easier for district techs who are stretched very thin.
#3: Funds from the Measure I facilities bond are being used to provide wireless throughout our schools. A basic level of wireless is available at every district facility, including the preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools. Wireless is being enhanced to support multiple classrooms running full classroom sets of Chromebooks simultaneously. In addition, many K-8 classrooms in the district have pods of four workstations.
We need improvements in technology in the classroom and alternative learning opportunities. Do you have a plan for this?
The question above addressed technology in the classroom. There is no doubt that CTE (Career Technical Education) and other alternative learning opportunities would benefit some students who are not as engaged by traditional classes. One of my desires is for a comprehensive CTE plan to come to the School Board during my first year. We need to work with the instructional leadership at both our high schools and adult school to make this happen.
Curriculum and Instruction / Special Education
What is your understanding of the meaning of inclusion, philosophy about inclusion and the use of inclusion model in your past experience, and what is your ideal vision of implementation?
Inclusion is the educational practice of educating children with disabilities in classrooms with children without disabilities. Under the inclusion model, students identified as “special needs” spend most or all of their time in classrooms with students who are not identified as having “special needs”. Implementation of these practices varies based on the needs of the students. Schools most frequently use them for selected students with mild to severe special needs based on the students’ Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Inclusive education differs from previous approaches of integration and mainstreaming, which tended to be concerned principally with disability and ‘special educational needs’ and implied learners changing or becoming ‘ready for’ or deserving of accommodation by the mainstream. By contrast, inclusion is about the child’s right to participate and the school’s duty to accept the child. Inclusion rejects the use of special schools or classrooms to separate students with disabilities from students without disabilities. A premium is placed upon full participation by students with disabilities and upon respect for their social, civil, and educational rights. Inclusion gives students with disabilities skills they can use in and out of the classroom.
I have observed many inclusive classrooms as my experience as a Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and as a site administrator and have found that when implemented with support, they are successful.
Facilities and School Climate
The number of children attending Berkeley schools is rapidly increasing. How do you propose we deal with this increase, given the limited amount of classroom spaces available?
With enrollment increasing at certain grade levels, we’re looking at schools that have the capacity to house additional students. As we look at these schools, we’re looking at what additional staff and support these schools need to provide a quality program for students.
How will you ensure that BUSD schools are safe? We worry when we hear about students or former students being victims of gun violence.
Ensuring our students are safe is a top priority in all of our schools. Every school has a safety plan that outlines safety procedures and practices.
Our safety officers are trained on how to detect issues before they become a crisis, and our campuses are constantly monitored. Restricting the entrances and exits to the high school has also helped to improve BHS campus safety.
Since there is always more that we can do to ensure our students safety, a safety audit of every school was conducted this past spring. The independent auditor will be presenting a report of findings and recommendations at a School Board meeting in December. We will be making some decisions about very specific steps that can be made to improve school safety even more.
Allocation of Resources
How do you approach and balance the need to allocate resources to address the achievement gap between groups of students while cultivating excellence and achievement at the highest level?
As we move toward the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control and Accountability Plan, our funding for students will be more strategic, targeted and designated for specific purposes that will help us address issues of equity and achievement. The new funding formula will not take away from high achieving students in order to provide additional resources for students with “high needs.” There are targeted funds based on the number of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, English learners and Foster Youth.
As a parent of a high achieving kid, I’ve felt like he’s an after-thought and that a large chunk of school’s resources are for programs that aren’t relevant to him.
It’s important that the school hears from you. Communication between home and school is critical and it is good for principals and teachers to hear your feedback so that we can make sure that we’re meeting the needs of all students. We do need to get away from the idea of a “zero-sum game” to a “win-win” approach to meeting the needs of all students. There are teaching approaches and programs which engage students across multiple levels of academic achievement.
Is it possible to encourage equity and excellence within the same school system?
Absolutely! To me, equity doesn’t mean equal, it means being fair and just. It doesn’t mean giving the same amount all the time to everybody, but allocating resources thoughtfully. Doing right means expecting excellence from everyone, while providing resources equitably so that everyone can be successful.