The Spotlight this month was on the new CSD website, at www.csdecatur.net. The new website has much better navigation, a clean, professional look, and is significantly easier for webmasters to keep updated than the previous website was. It is also mobile friendly! Staff are monitoring usage data from the site and will continue to make improvements based on how the site is used by stakeholders.
I shared some thoughts about the Hidden Cove trail behind Westchester. I presented a portion of the presentation from our staff Opening Day event, explaining our strategic priorities this year: amplifying equity, growing strategically, and assessing impact. I also shared how we monitor class sizes at the start of the year, the impact of changes to teacher staffing after homerooms are underway, and the areas we are discussing for potential staff additions (Clairemont kindergarten and Glennwood first grade).
Ms. Seals recognized the passing of former CSD Superintendent Don Griffith and shared some of the accomplishments of his tenure. The room shared a moment of silence in his remembrance.
The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing our 2016-17 Milestones assessment results, with a specific focus on areas we can celebrate and areas needing significant improvement. Overall, #OurKids are performing very well, as usual. A large majority of our students are performing at the proficient and distinguished levels across all grades and subjects, with many trends showing annual improvement. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly given our focus in this area, we continue to see evidence of significant achievement gaps. For example, while 71% of all CSD students taking Algebra scored at the proficient or distinguished level last year, only 37% of the Black, non-Hispanic students in Algebra scored at that level. This is a clear example of an achievement gap we are working to eliminate.
I brought up the tendency for folks to want to conflate impacts based on race with impacts based on socioeconomic status, largely because the latter is easier to talk about, and the efforts we will need to undertake to stay focused despite the challenging conversations that will require. I shared an example of a brief analysis I conducted prior to the meeting in which Black, non-Hispanic students who were not “economically disadvantaged” (the GaDOE term for students on free or reduced-price lunch) had nearly identical performance to White, economically disadvantaged students (for the grade and subject I was looking at); performance which was lower than what we expect to see from our students. Clearly socioeconomic status has an impact on achievement and will be part of our root cause analyses, but these and future data we share will show that a student’s race is impacting achievement separately and distinctly from the student’s socioeconomic status.
We discussed the importance of reminding our staff and students that the results we are seeing in these analyses are not about staff not doing their job or students not pulling their weight. I shared my belief that achievement gaps, disproportional discipline, and disproportional participation are built one interaction at a time. It’s the small interactions like how a concern with a student is handled in the moment, the feedback provided on an individual assignment, someone being there (or not) when the student needs someone to lean on, and myriad other individual interactions between staff and student that lead to the results we ultimately see. I do not believe we have any staff members who are intentionally treating one sub-group of students differently than another, nor do I believe we have one sub-group of students who are inherently “better” or “worse” than any other. Rather, we have cultural frameworks and implicit biases impacting these day-to-day interactions in ways we usually don’t recognize. Our work moving forward will be to identify those areas and build conscious awareness of such impacts, allowing us to change those negative impacts we currently are not even aware of.
There were no Action or Discussion Items on this month’s agenda. The Board convened an executive session to discuss personnel and property matters.