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Gateway achievement gap panel formulates 1-school pilot plan

Emily Balser
| Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, 4:45 p.m.

The Gateway School Board's achievement gap committee is nearing its end as it compiles its final proposal to submit to the full school board for a vote.

The committee has been meeting since May to try to develop a plan to address achievement of all students and the achievement gap between black and white students.

The committee developed a three-year pilot program plan that would focus on one school to determine if the initiatives are successful, before implementing district-wide changes.

The pilot program includes using culturally responsive teaching methods, creating an “equity team” and goals for that team, providing diversity training for teachers and conducting an outreach program for parents. The pilot school hasn't been determined yet, but would be chosen based on the school with the highest number of underperforming students.

The committee decided to take the pilot-program approach to make it easier for the board and district to get used to such measures, as well as to reduce the cost.

“There's a lot of people that have to buy into this,” said school board member Steve O'Donnell, who heads the committee.

O'Donnell also cautioned the committee about the budgeting system the board has adopted, which requires a detailed breakdown of all costs in the pilot program before the board will consider funding it.

“It's about allocation of resources,” O'Donnell said.

The equity team will likely be the most costly part of the program. The committee discussed the team having up to four people who would act as consultants and provide feedback and recommendations for the pilot school on how to address the achievement gap and diversity.

Teacher and committee member Epryl King said that could cost $150,000 to $300,000. A total cost for the pilot program hasn't been determined.

King also stressed the need for culturally responsive teaching as the main component of the program because of its success in closing achievement gaps between white and black students in other schools. Culturally responsive teaching involves using the cultural characteristics and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for learning.

“The research does point to (the success of) CRT,” King said.

The district will also continue to align its curriculum to state standards to improve its students' achievement, which is a goal of new Superintendent Bill Short.

Short said no matter what direction the committee takes with its initiatives, the district will continue to have targeted accelerated growth classes for underperforming students. Those classes are a double period of one subject and targeted to students' specific needs. The district will also continue to offer after-school tutoring programs.

The achievement gap committee will meet one more time before sending the pilot-program proposal to the board this fall. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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