LAYTON — Bridging the gap between the lower test scores of minority students and the scores of their counterparts was the goal of the Davis School District’s Parent Equity Night at Northridge High School.
The difference in scores creates what district officials call an achievement gap.
Minority students comprise approximately 7 percent of the district’s student population, said Suzanne Cottrell, representing the district’s Assessment, Research and Evaluation Department.
Cottrell broke down student test scores by ethnicity and income to show that minority and low-income students score anywhere from 16 to 24 percent lower on their end-of-level tests than their nonminority peers. The exception was Asian students, with whom there is no achievement gap.
“I want you to remember that we count all of our children. There are no children that are invisible. They are all important to us,” Cottrell said.
The district’s Parent Equity Committee — composed of volunteer parents, district personnel and community members — organized the event to help educate community members and families as to what can be done to help minority students.
“The goals for our parent equity committee (are) student achievement, school culture and climate, parental involvement and hiring practices, as we look at hiring more diverse educators that reflect the backgrounds of all of our students,” said Dr. Jackie Thompson, director of the district’s Educational Equity Department.
Thompson enumerated what the district is already doing to help bridge the achievement gap.
The Latinos in Action Club is in 12 Davis district schools. It is an elective course in which students go to elementary schools to tutor and mentor. Thompson said these students have a 100 percent high school graduation rate.
The Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement club (MESA) is geared toward girls and ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in these fields. Students in the club are given opportunities to explore careers through such activities as building robots, designing buildings to withstand earthquakes and taking field trips to college campuses.
Gear-Up is a program designed to help those who are the first in their families to pursue a college education.
Also available are diverse teacher scholarships, which send students to Salt Lake Community College and then on to the University of Utah to earn education degrees. The graduates are then hired back into the Davis School District.
Other programs include: the Indian Education program, multicultural clubs, multicultural speakers and a program that provides summer school for migrant students.
“These are just a few of the things that we are doing. It’s not enough, but it is a beginning, and we really have come a long way,” Thompson said.
Guest speaker Pastor France A. Davis encouraged school officials to be visible in the community outside the classroom.
“There are other community centers and places in the community that I would recommend that administrators, that those who are teachers and counselors, would show up … to communicate with first the parents, and then with the students,” Davis said.
Davis, who is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, also suggested that adults have clear and high expectations for students.
“It’s not enough to set them high, more important is to make sure that those expectations are clear and that we communicate those as clear as we possibly can,” he said.
He also suggested that parents and schools should learn to identify with the cultures of different ethnicities, and then work as equals to create meaningful education for students.
Robert “Archie” Archuleta, a retired educator and community activist who also spoke at the event, said:
“Trying to draw community, and trying to draw parents into becoming a part of the school district and helping with their children is very important … Community and parental involvement really are very key to addressing this achievement gap.”