During the 2017-18 school year, only 17 percent of Warren County Public Schools’ black students scored proficient or distinguished on their high school K-PREP math test, compared to 46 percent of white students.
And yet, the four-year high school graduation rate for black students was 98.9 percent, according to district data for that same school year.
That’s just one finding from WCPS’ fourth annual Equity Scorecard, a report that evaluates the school district’s efforts in equitable education opportunities, discipline and staffing.
Using 2017-18 state assessment data, the report compares the academic performance of white, black, Hispanic, Asian students and students of two or more races. It also includes English-learner students and those with disabilities.
The report shows that serious achievement gaps remain for black students, English-learner students and students with disabilities. For some groups, certain gaps have actually widened over the last four years.
“It’s just really hard work,” said Skip Cleavinger, the district’s director of English Learner Programs and chair of the Equity Council, which was formed in 2011 and released its first Equity Scorecard in 2016.
Now about to retire, Cleavinger said the district has undertaken several initiatives in an effort to close those gaps during his tenure.
Those efforts include starting GEO International High School, the first four-year high school for refugee students, pushing cultural proficiency training among teachers and attempts to hire diverse and bilingual classroom teachers.
But progress has been slow, Cleavinger said, adding that it is “going to take a long time to get to where we need to go.” Much of the work will center on equipping teachers with the right skills going forward, he said.
“We really have to strengthen (the) theory and pedagogical knowledge of our teachers and also the cultural proficiency that they have,” he said.
For Shanetti Jones, a black mother of two daughters who attend middle and elementary schools in the district, the report’s findings are personal.
Jones served on this year’s Equity Council and helped develop the report as a parent who serves on the school councils at Drakes Creek Middle and William H. Natcher Elementary schools.
After working on this year’s report, Jones said she would like to see more interventions across the district’s schools for black students specifically.
“We really don’t discuss the black students” in the same context as English-learner students and students with disabilities, she said.
Jones recognizes the district’s efforts to close achievement gaps, she said, but added, “I can’t comprehend why it’s not working for the black students.”
The elementary reading gap for black students actually widened over the last four years, according to the report. The group’s elementary math gaps were even larger than in elementary reading.
Those gaps were also deep for English learners and students with disabilities over the last four years.
During the 2017-18 school year, for example, only 9 percent of English learners scored proficient or distinguished on their K-PREP middle school reading test. That’s 62 percentage points behind the 71 percent of white students who scored proficient or distinguished on the same test.
English-learner students also encountered gaps in high school, with no English-learner student scoring proficient or distinguished on the high school K-PREP test. By comparison, 46 percent of students in the white subgroup scored at the proficient or distinguished category on the High School K-PREP Math Test.
There are also barriers in equitable discipline and 96 percent of the district’s teachers and administrators are white. The report makes several recommendations, including developing an Equity Strategic Plan to “outline initiatives to ensure equitable practices and policies in the areas of educational opportunities and instruction, student discipline and practices in staff recruitment, hiring and retention.”
This plan will be developed this summer and submitted to the district’s board of education for adoption in the fall, according to the report. Cleavinger said the plan will include both short- and long-term goals for the district.
The full 2018-19 Equity Scorecard is available online with this story at bgdailynews.com.