PALO ALTO, CA – After devoting six months to determining the root causes of the significant disparities in academic performance and disproportional enrollment in advanced classes between historically underrepresented groups of low-resourced and minority students and their peers, the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Advisory Committee released its thorough report. At the May 26 Board of Education meeting, members of the committee, which includes parents, teachers, administrators, classified staff, and community members, presented their findings based on research and best practices in other districts; examination of historical district data; a series of local focus groups and individual interviews with students, parents, and teachers; and over 800 survey responses from students, parents, faculty and staff, administrators, and community members.
Community Member Gina Dalma noted, “The months of reviewing national best practices and conducting our own local research and then reviewing our students’ survey data and listening to their stories led us to understand there are two very different realities for students in Palo Alto: one for high-achieving students that face high expectations and have access to enrichment opportunities and another one for our students of color and from low-resourced backgrounds who face lower expectations and have limited access to opportunities. Our committee has created recommendations that focus on ensuring all our students are held to the same standards and our investing intelligently so all our students can meet them. We know all our students can be successful.”
Added parent and Library Advisory Commission member Sheena Chin, “It was a pleasure to work with dedicated and enthusiastic professionals. For the past six months, twelve meetings, and uncountable working hours, we generated workable solutions for PAUSD to further help underrepresented minority students. When we say we want to help every student, we really mean EVERY student. I am honored to have been a part of the MATD accomplishments.”
The report includes a dozen recommendations that can be implemented next year including:
- Identify and administer a PK-2 diagnostic literacy and mathematics assessment and provide Tier I interventions and ongoing monitoring and intervention as necessary assuring that administrators and faculty have ready access to this data, review it regularly and use it meaningfully.
- Based on the results of the diagnostic assessment for kindergarten students, provide an additional two days a week of extended or full-day kindergarten.
- Ensure that extensive summer enrichment and OST after-school programming is available for historically underrepresented students.
- Employ mathematics intervention support personnel for middle schools.
- Assure new hirings for teachers and administrators are representative of our district’s diverse populations.
- Strengthen existing community partnerships and foster new ones to encourage innovative supports and enrichment for underrepresented students and their families.
Committee members realize their efforts, however, will only have the desired impact if all PAUSD employees and affiliated stakeholders share a collective responsibility to close the opportunity gap, strive to improve achievement, and create a welcoming, safe, healthy and appropriately challenging academic environment that promotes excellence and incorporates high expectations and high standards. Committee members also know success will require a sustained support at all levels of the system - in homes and classrooms as well as offices and the Board room.
Superintendent McGee highly commended the Advisory Committee for the quality of their work and also noted, “Other schools and districts have tackled the achievement gap. Some have been successful, but too often the best intentions have not led to tangible change. Palo Alto, however, is not just another community. We are blessed with an array of human and financial resources with broad and deep experience in designing and delivering high impact programs and services that have improved the quality of life. We are confident this innovative spirit, drive, resilience, and commitment to solving tough problems, that is the DNA of our community, will result in an improved educational system that will assure every student has the opportunity and access to programs, practices, and personnel that will empower every child to attain his or her highest intellectual, creative, and social potential. Doing so successfully will have enduring benefits for our students, schools, and greater community and ideally will inform other districts across the country. “
The Board of Education heard a full presentation from the committee, including short-term goals to be implemented in the 2015-2016 school year, along with estimates of the financial and logistical support necessary to make these changes and additions.