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56 Tri-County elementary and middle schools on path to close minority gap

Posted on April 17, 2014 by in Education

Minority gap closing, but not for all, USE THIS ONE By Tom Grubisich

Nearly half of Tri-County elementary and middle schools are on a path to significantly narrow their share of the region’s stubborn gap in minority academic achievement, Local America projects.

Black and Hispanic students at 56 of 115 schools should perform as well as their white classmates in at least 50% of key grade-level tests by 2016, according to projections.  Minority students at the 56 schools — located in all four Tri-County school districts — are improving especially in English tests.

In Charleston County, X FINAL, minority achievement can go in opposite directionsBut the projections also show that thousands of minority students at 59 Tri-County schools are likely to remain stuck in the learning gap beyond 2016.

The projections are based on Local America’s analysis of test results between 2009 and 2013 and other performance factors. The details are spelled out in these three tables: Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester 2 and 4.

In Berkeley FINAL, minority scores can go up and downMany teachers and education experts criticize what they say is excessive reliance on test scores to measure academic progress, but for school systems in Tri-County and elsewhere in the U.S. test scores are the primary measuring stick. The two big teachers unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — have moved, however grudgingly, toward teacher evaluation systems where test scores and grades count for 50%.

In Dorchester 2, 2d CX, most schools show gains in minority scoresLocal America’s analysis shows that Tri-County minority achievement is going up but also down (at a lower rate) at the same time, based on comparisons between 2009 and 2013 English and Math test results for black and Hispanic groups in 3rd and 8th grades. The ups and downs are dramatically visualized in this table based,  and the charts above and below this paragraph show the impact in each of the four school systems. State-produced data includes average minority scores covering all South Caroline schools in English and Math at all grade levels and by racial and ethnic group but not school-by-school or school district breakdowns. The state data covers only two-year comparisons — 2013 and 2012 — which do not capture trends in progress or lack of progress that five-year comparisons show.

Dorchester 4 rates almost 100 pct. in minority achievementBlack and Hispanic students made the most consistent gains at schools in the Dorchester 2 and 4 systems. At Dorchester 4’s five elementary and middle schools, there were five increases in test scores among black groupings and one decrease — in Math. But despite the gains, none of Dorchester 4’s schools are on target to close their minority gaps by 2016 because of their generally low baselines.

How Tri-County school districts, 4th FINAL, stack up in high school performance, 2013Regional high school graduation rates don’t always reveal the sometimes stark contrasts in minority achievement in Tri-County secondary schools because students need only to score at the “basic” Level 2 in tests to earn a diploma. When minority and white groups are compared at the higher “proficient” and “exceptional” Levels 3 and 4, those contrasts show up. In the chart above, compare especially the wide differences in each school district’s minority and white bars in Level 2 and Below and Levels 3 and 4 for both English and Math.  Higher percentages of blacks and Hispanics are in lower-achieving Level 2 and Below, while higher percentages of whites are in higher-achieving Levels 3 and 4. Colleges and employers seek high school graduates who reached Levels 3 and 4.

Yet though there are still wide gaps in minority achievement at the high school level across the region, blacks and Hispanics are steadily narrowing the distances — in most cases. This table of Tri-County performance shows the broad pattern of minority gains in key indicators:

Tri-County minorities, XXX FINAL, narrowing, XX FINAL, achievement gap in high schoolsThe table shows that from 2009 to 2013 the minority gap was narrowed 16 times in Levels 1 and 3 & 4 test scoring categories and widened 12 times (green and red check marks). Very slight decimal-sized improvements by minorities in Level 1 would have narrowed the gap 18 times vs. widening it 10 times.

In one especially interesting example of minority improvement, blacks at the two least-achieving high schools in Charleston County — Burke and North Charleston — outpaced the Levels 3 & 4 Math (proficient and exceptional) performance of district-wide blacks in three out of four English and Math comparisons by from 2009 to 2013.

Minority academic achievement is a top priority of the region’s Opportunity Next coalition of public and private organizations. With a push from Opportunity Next the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative was created in July 2013. TCCC’s mission is to help the region’s public schools accelerate closure of their enduring gap in minority academic achievement. Opportunity Next leaders say the region can’t reach its ambitious economic objectives unless its nearly 50,000 black and Hispanic students — half the public schools’ enrollment — reach the same level of achievement as their white classmates.

While most of the attention in closing the achievement gap is on what happens in classrooms at the four local school systems,'Our community has NO MASTER PLAN.' -- Ted Legasy, Cradle to Career Collaborative'Our community has NO MASTER PLAN.' -- Ted Legasy, Cradle to Career Collaborative'Our community has NO MASTER PLAN.' -- Ted Legasy, Cradle to Career Collaborative Cradle to Career says success depends on engagement and collaboration across the community — from families to businesses to public and private agencies and organizations in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Cradle to Career Collaborative leader Ted Legasey says resource organizations now function largely within “silos” that prevent or hamper their working together and even communicating with each other. “While every institution has a plan, our community has no master plan,” Legasey says.

Black student doing math at blackboardIn its mission to close the minority achievement gap, Cradle to Career  says “every child will be supported in and out of school.” But the group hasn’t, so far, spelled out how that support would be funded.

Poverty is widespread among minorities in metro Charleston, especially children. A new report by KIDS Count of the Anne E. Casey Foundation says there are 20,887 children living in poverty in Charleston County. That’s 28.1% of all children, well above the national rate of 23%. In Berkeley County, the report said, 9,629 children are in poverty (20.9%) and in Dorchester, 6,221 (16.9%).

The extent of child poverty is deep and pervasive in the Tri-County public school systems, where minorities are just under a majority. As thousands of affluent white families send their children to private schools, poverty at public schools is rising among all racial and ethnic groups, especially among blacks and Hispanics.

The Local America assessment found that the higher the poverty rate among students, the lower their academic achievement. But this correlation was not ironclad. The assessment pinpointed high-poverty schools where minority achievement was strong, among them Minnie Hughes Elementary, Murray Lasaine (a Montessori elementary) and Mitchell (a Partial Magnet elementary), all in Charleston. Furthermore, the Charleston school system — whose county has the highest poverty rate in Tri-County — actually performed slightly better on minority achievement scores overall than the Berkeley system.

Local America’s analysis of minority achievement in Tri-County indicates there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to low minority achievement. At some schools, where high-poverty students have to contend with serious family problems, like violence, community-based solutions may be as important as classroom initiatives. Schools where math scores are far lower than ELACharleston Co. 2016 goals at elementary, middle schools scores may need to institute math intervention programs as a follow-up to their reading intervention. Still other schools may be able to improve their minority achievement by increasing counseling support; some low-performing schools with high poverty  have only one part-time counselor for hundreds of students.

One barrier to improving minority achievement may be the friction between school systems and teachers exacerbated by federally funded programs whose requirements can disrupt, local staff salary steps, preventing some teachers from getting a scheduled raise because their students did not meet federal mandates to increase their students’ scores to a high enough level. This is an especially important for teachers who have a high percentages of minority students from high-poverty families. These teachers often want more support for what they do in the classroom. They often seek more counseling help for their low-performing students, more community initiatives to deal with home-life issues, like violence and drugs, that  can disrupt or prevent a student’s academic progress and more emphasis on test results that focus on the year-to-year progress of the individual student and class. But the school systems often push back by saying budget cutting prevents  a bigger commitment to initiatives beyond the classroom.

Charleston County’s minorities may benefit especially from the gap-closing programs that are being introduced at 19 high-poverty schools under the $19.4 million grant the Charleston district won in 2013 in the “Race to the Top” competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

Visualizations of the numbers

This table shows which Tri-County elementary and middle schools improved on minority achievement between 2009 and 2013 and which didn’t, based on state-administered PASS scores.

For Local America’s forecast on which elementary-middle schools are likely to meet minority achievement goals by 2016 based on overall targets set by the Charleston County system, check out these Tri-County tables — Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester 02 and 04.

This table lists the 56 Tri-County elementary and middle schools projected to be on a path to significantly narrow their minority achievement gap by 2016.

How minorities are narrowing the achievement gap in Tri-County high schools is shown in this table.

 

Photo credit: “Achievement Gap,” by National Center for Educational Statistics and National Assessment of Educational Processes, July 2009.

 

 

 

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