On Saturday, Sept. 20, the five Board of Education candidates answered questions at a debate hosted by the Palo Alto Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC) and Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS).
The two parent groups posed five jointly prepared questions and took audience cards for the remainder of the debate. The questions touched on the achievement gap, the district's handling of Office for Civil Rights issues and relationship with special education families, inclusion, teacher diversity, mental health and more.
Below are all of those questions and summaries of the candidates' answers.
PAUSD board policy 6164.6 reads that qualified students with disabilities shall be provided an equal opportunity to participate in programs and activities that are integral components of the district's basic education program, including, but not limited to, extracurricular athletics, interscholastic sports, and/or other nonacademic activities. In January 2013, the district received a letter from the OCR regarding this matter. How would you as a board member monitor the implementation of this policy, evaluate its success and make improvements?
Catherine Crystal Foster said that she wanted to clarify that the January 2013 letter was not about a complaint, but a "matter of saying that this is what the policy is, this is what all districts need to do." She thinks the issue is extraordinarily important, and that its experiences outside the classroom where students can explore individual passions and reach their full potential. "Those are the places where inclusion really happens," she said, and thus, the district needs to make sure it is fully following that directive. She said budget and resources make it tricky, and that the district faces challenges on making athletic programs available to all students, not jut those with disabilities. She said if elected, she would make sure there's a clear directive to the district's Office of Evaluation to set clear benchmarks, collect data, talk directly to students and families and report back to the community on a regular basis on how these kind of programs are being implemented and if they're successful or not.
Terry Godfrey said "when it comes to monitoring this kind of policy, one of the things that comes to my mind is the old adage, 'If it matters, measure it.'" She mentioned that Superintendent Max McGee has asked senior staff to provide updates on their work on a more frequent basis in biweekly reports, which she called "the perfect place to have a bit of a dashboard or scorecard on things you're measuring in each organization." This will provide better benchmarks, data and accountability, she said. Though that is the "numbers side of it," she said getting the human side through talking to students and families is important to gauge the success of any program.
Ken Dauber said he wanted to note that board policy, which refers to programs that are integral parts of the district's basic education, is narrower than the law requires. He said that staff needs to better understand and policy should better reflect an obligation that includes programs like after-school clubs, whether they're district-run or not. He said the district should go beyond just encouraging equal rates of participation between general education students and students with special needs. "We should see a higher rate of participation because we want our disabled students, students with special needs to find opportunities for friendship and success outside the classroom as well as inside," he said. He said the district should focus more energy on intramural sports and reach out to families to encourage them to participate. "We can't rely on the families themselves to do the work of making sure that after-school programs, sports and clubs are accommodating to their needs. The law says very clearly it is a district responsibility and as a board member I will make sure that responsibility is met."
Gina Dalma said that the most effective learning and living environments are the "least restrictive ones that involve all kids and provide the necessary support for all to thrive." She said she would do three things, if elected. One, she would ensure all families of students with disabilities are aware of the January 2013 letter and the district's obligation. This would include providing contact information for who at the district is accountable for meeting this obligation. Two, she would ensure there are clear goals around inclusion in these programs and that schools are communicating periodically to those who are in charge of the programs. Three, she would survey students and families at least once a year and continuously gather data.
Jay Cabrera said that the district needs an "expanded plan of action," which could be executed through "mini strategic plans" created for students with special needs. He emphasized the need to go directly to organizations like CAC; to parents, students and staff to find out, "Is this working for you?" He said he would bring that information back to the district to lobby the superintendent directly if there is change that needs to happen.
Similar to other years, for the class of 2013, the a-g course requirements were met by 7 out of 21 African American graduates and 38 out of 69 Hispanic graduates. Three years ago, the Paly math department stated out right that they could not be expected to teach algebra 2 to kids who did not come from families that valued education., specifying VTP kids and underprivileged minorities. Does this chronic inability to prepare students for college indicate a need for outside evaluation of specific subject areas or outside resources to improve student outcomes in underserved demographics?
Ken Dauber said that yes, looking for outside expertise would be helpful but that it "needs to be part of a real district commitment with focus and leadership from the top." He said these results are unacceptable and that he's worked to get PAUSD graduation requirements aligned with a-g requirements. He said it is just as important to expect all teachers to be able to prepare students to meet these requirements. He said the reason that looking outside the district makes sense is because there are other districts doing better by their minority and low-income students, despite the fact that Palo Alto has greater resources to work with. He said in 2011, PAUSD ranked 165th in the state for African-American student achievement on algebra 1; 144th for Hispanic students and 192nd for low-income students. "Those facts should spur us to action." he said, particularly in seeking lessons from higher-performing districts or education experts at Stanford University.
Terry Godfrey called the district's performance on a-g requirements "disturbing." She said she was happy to see some analysis on the topic by Diana Wilmot, the district's former coordinator of research and evaluation, that looked at early testing in elementary school grades as a predictor for meeting a-g requirements. She said the district is in a unique moment with the arrival of McGee, who has experience with these kind of issues. She said from a practical standpoint, the district should start with him and let him lead them through an evaluative improvement process.
Jay Cabrera said "the answer is yes, yes, yes." He said the district needs to devote more resources to the issue, do more evaluation and in general do more to make this a top priority. He pointed to a lack of leadership as the underlying issue," saying that "the leadership that is currently in power is not meeting the needs of the community on this particular issue." He said current board members and "in many ways the current people running for school board are not the people who need to be in power to fix this. We need to empower people who are of the demographics and of the community who need to make the changes." He said the board's primary role should be providing the resources and support necessary to community members and groups like the CAC.
Catherine Crystal Foster said that the district can't consider itself successful unless it's committed to the success of every student, and called Palo Alto's achievement gap a "shame on our district." She said the district needs to start earlier and in a more comprehensive way with shared leadership and a shared commitment from administrators, teachers and parents. She said families have told her that one of the key things that would make them feel like the district is committed to their students' success is a commitment to "high expectations for all." She said there also needs to be a concerted effort on teacher professional development, evaluation and feedback from parents.
Gina Dalma said that "poverty and race have often been used as excuses for poor academic performance of kids. I don't buy that. I have not bought into that and I will never buy into that." She said "we need to stop blaming poverty and race" and learn from others who have been successful with minority and low-income students. She also said the district cannot have a Strategic Plan goal of 85 percent proficiency for all students; it should be 100 percent. She also said measuring success and communication are key.
Inclusion is a philosophy, and mainstreaming works when a fully developed support program is in place for each child with an IEP or 504 plan. What is your view of current mainstreaming in PAUSD? How would you improve upon it and how would you monitor the success of the program? What inclusion or mainstreaming programs outside of our district have you researched and what do you like about them?
Catherine Crystal Foster said that inclusion works best when it is supported well, which means that the board needs to make sure teachers are well prepared to support students with disabilities and give them the customized learning they need to succeed in a general education classroom. She said inclusion at its best benefits all classes of students. She said she has heard from parents of special education students that inclusion works well when case managers are "really clear in understanding what needs are of student and when they're clearly reporting the goals of the IEPs to all the teachers." She said the district should also make an investment in co-teaching and training "where it's appropriate." She said she has heard from teachers who don't feel like they have the knowledge or support to make inclusion really work. She said she has seen great inclusion programs in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Jay Cabrera said that he is not an expert on specific inclusion programs in Palo Alto or at other school districts and instead brings an open slate to listen to community needs on the issue. He said he sees any improvements necessary as part of a larger discussion on rethinking education models, and moving from a linear to a more cyclical, flexible model.
Terry Godfrey said that inclusion "really is walking the talk on meeting every student where they're at." She said inclusion is a "beautiful thing and a challenge" and teachers she has spoken to say having that "extra texture and complexity" in the classroom is good but can also be hard. She said it's incumbent that when the district does its resource planning, to make sure teachers have the training, resources and tools they need. She said her experience in other California districts is not "best practices" she would bring back to Palo Alto but that she looks forward to doing more research on the topic.
Gina Dalma said "we know that full inclusion is a best practice, but it assumes that a certain support system is in place. The more I talk to parents and teachers, that's exactly where our school district has not done the best job." She said she would do three things to do a better job: Invest in professional development for teachers; set goals and measure achievement toward those goals through data and feedback; and look at what others are doing on inclusion. She also said holding all students to the highest expectations is key.
Ken Dauber said he agrees with the other candidates on what it takes to make inclusion work well and the value when it is working well. He said there's good evidence that PAUSD has some way to go on inclusion, citing the fact that 57 percent of teachers indicated in the 2014 Strategic Plan survey that they need more professional development on special education. He said the district has also seen high turnover rates for special education teachers, which leads to things like new teachers getting hired in August without enough time to connect with staff and students. He said implementation and management issues are prioritites. He mentioned that McGee is moving special education to report directly to him, which he sees as a commitment to addressing the management and implementation issues. He echoed the other candidates on the importance of data, evaluation and talking to parents and teachers.
PAUSD board policy states, "...diversity of the student population and staff enriches the learning experience for all students." Currently, the student population is about 45 percent white, 35 percent Asian and about 20 percent other races, while teacher population is 80 percent white. What would you do as board members to recruit qualified staff that better reflects the diversity of our student population?
Gina Dalma said, "I'm going to start first by saying what I would do as a community member, and what I would do as a community member is I would make sure to choose a diverse board." She said she's been glad to hear McGee say recently that he is prioritizing this issue. She said as a board member, she would ensure there is a specific goal in the Strategic Plan that addresses this, and would monitor it constantly and communicate with the community.
Jay Cabrera took the opportunity to go back to the last question on inclusion, and said that every student should meet a special accommodation at some point in their 12 years of school. He said there should be more work done to get rid of the stigma attached to special education and that as a student with dyslexia, he himself did not have access to help because of the stigma attached to it. On the question of teacher diversity, Cabrera said it's again a leadership issue and that the board should provide the resources necessary to empower other organizations or groups to recruit a more diverse teacher pool.
Catherine Crystal Foster said that teacher diversity is not a problem unique to Palo Alto, and that California is one of the worst states when it comes to representative teacher populations. She said the board needs to set goals and she is also glad to see McGee making it a priority. She said retention also goes hand in hand with this issue, and that the district needs to talk to current PAUSD teachers of colors to "find out what keeps them here and what makes some of their colleagues leave." She said in her work as executive director of the Peninsula College Fund, students say that the teachers they learned the most from are the ones who are able to understand their experiences.
Ken Dauber said this issue really matters because minority students need to see successful role models that look like them, both in the classroom and administration. "We don't want them to look upwards in an organization and only see people who don't look like them." He said the two issues are hiring and retention, and that places see lower representation of minorities in certain positions not because they don't get hired when they apply but because they don't appear in the pipeline to get hired, so they need to make sure that recruitment is turning up minority candidates. He said minority teachers are retained at lower rates so the district needs to make sure its not only "doing a good job bringing them in the door, but keeping them here when they arrive." He said he agrees with Dalma that having a diverse school board is incredibly important as well.
Terry Godfrey said that she agrees with Cabrera that it's a "crisis of leadership." She said the district invited the candidates in for a briefing before the first debate of the season, and she asked what PAUSD's profile looks like for teachers. She said Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers couldn't answer the question, which was disappointing for her. She followed up with him and he told her that the current number of white teachers is at 75 percent and provided other numbers that were "a little more encouraging" on the hiring of minority teachers. She agreed with Dauber that it is key to understand "where the pipeline is and how to access that pipeline."
School climate refers to the quality and character of school life, its norms and values, social interactions, and organizational processes. A positive and welcoming school climate directly effects student success and positive identity.
a. How would you evaluate our school climates in cultivating students' self-esteem, sense of purpose and personal or cultural identity?
b. What do you think is the role of the board in fostering greater participation of students with special needs and students of color in leadership roles on campus? How would you achieve this goal?
c. What programs would you initiate that would nurture success for students with special needs?
Terry Godfrey said the district should look at how to get more kids who aren't the "core kids" participating in leadership positions. She said there are ways of understanding which kids are participating and ways to better educate parents on how to get more kids involved. She said there are also opportunities outside the district, also, for kids to assume leadership roles.
Jay Cabrera said that the most important thing is to talk to students and parents, but again attributed the problem to a lack of leadership at the district. He said that the board and superintendent are "not direct leaders at this particular moment and time." He sees solutions to these kind of problems as bottom-up, rather than top-down. He said "the best thing the board can do is get out of the way and get the superintendent out of the way and empower a leadership team to do" this work.
Gina Dalma also said the district should do a better job of talking to students directly on what works or doesn't work for them. She mentioned an organization called Panorama Ed, which helps schools collect, analyze and act on data/feedback, seemingly as a way to get this done.
Ken Dauber said "this is an area where we need to do better" and that he isn't satisfied with low Strategic Plan goals on middle and high school participation. He said the board should focus on "simple, easy and straightforward changes that are really going to demonstrate that we care." As examples, he referenced work he's done on pre-break finals, counseling changes and homework time limits.
Catherine Crystal Foster said the district should embed more service learning into its schools and also direct staff developing IEPs to think about if "what students need is opportunity to engage, lead and serve." She agreed that checking in with students and using surveys is key.
What are the top three goals that "we" (board, parents, teacher, students) should collectively focus on? What does success look like?
Jay Cabrera said inclusivity and community interaction are his top goals. He said every single board decision should be available online and the district needs to better utilize technology to increase interaction with the community.
Catherine Crystal Foster said a first goal is making sure all students can reach their maximum potential in terms of learning and engagement. Part of that is implementing new Common Core State Standards. A second goal is making sure that all kids can thrive socially and emotionally. A third goal is making sure the district is healthy financially.
Terry Godfrey said the No. 1 goal is to have a student-centered decision-making process. She said the district has had issues around how decisions get made, and that in a district where thousands of decisions are made every day, decisions should be made as close to students as possible. The second goal is to "understand every kid's definition of success is different and we need to celebrate those definitions of success and help them get there." The third goal is to make sure that students are healthy and engaged socially, emotionally, physically and academically.
Ken Dauber said the first goal is achievement for all students and to make sure the data and metrics are there so "we can not just hope that that's true but demonstrate that that's true." The second goal is to ensure students have the strongest social-emotional support they need and address in a serious way the "issues of academic stress that have been vexing us for a long time in this community."
Gina Dalma said helping students reach their social, emotional and academic potential should be "not only the first line item in our plan, but the only line item in our plan." She said as a board member, she would also make sure the Strategic Plan is updated to take full advantage of the Local Control Accountability Plan funding; make a more concerted effort on evaluation; focus on Common Core implementation; and create a five- to 10-year facilities plan that includes the opening of a 13th elementary school and "looks at Cubberley in a very serious way."
What is your philosophy on laning? When is it helpful and when is it harmful to student learning? What can you do as a board member to ensure laning is used in the best interest of all students?
Ken Dauber said laning is a pedagogical tool that is designed to make it easier for students to learn by enabling them to be in a class that doesn't include too wide a range of abilities. He said the cost of laning is "if you limit opportunity because students can't (as) easily migrate across lanes as they can within the same class" in terms of the work they're doing and the peers they have.
Gina Dalma said laning has lifelong implications for all students. She supports instruction that encourages specialization, especially for higher grade levels or certain subjects, but she believes laning makes "absolutely no sense" when it comes to core subjects, such as freshman English (the focus of a delaning proposal from Palo Alto High School teachers last year0. She emphasized that there needs to be a culture of high expectations for all students. She agreed that it is a pedagogical decision.
Jay Cabrera compared laning to vocational education and said it should be the decision of students if they want to go in a certain direction. He is a proponent of a mixed classroom model, from academic achievement to inclusion to inter-generational education.
Catherine Crystal Foster repeated that having "high expectations for all" is extremely important. She said it's key to make sure that lanes are not defining students' destinies and that "every student knows they can always achieve higher."
Terry Godfrey agreed with others that it's a pedagogical decision that should be made on each topic and grade. She said she has no opposition to laning, but that the bigger obstacle is inconsistency between classes, whether they're laned or not. She said "before we even get to, is it laned or not laned, we need to make sure we have horizontal consistency across teachers." If laning is the best way to meet student needs, then the district should do it; if not, it shouldn't.
What have you learned in the past few years about the causes of the achievement gap in PAUSD including the gap for education-oriented, privileged African American and Latino students? (I'm not asking for solutions, just your understanding of the causes.) As a board member, what will you do to help close the achievement or opportunity gap?
Gina Dalma said when her son was in eighth grade, he did very well and received an "A" in his math class. The summer between eighth and ninth grade, however, he received a letter recommending him for a remedial summer math program. She said she called his teacher, counselor and others at the district to find out why and "found out that maybe it was because he's a Latino." She added that the achievement gap has a lot to do with belief systems.
Ken Dauber said he was impressed to hear McGee talk at the first board meeting about equity training, or "training directly specifically at enabling teachers and other staff members to recognize and to change their unconscious biases." He said that the superintendent said he's going to double the rate of that training. "He's taking a risk in raising the issue of unconscious bias because it's difficult to hear. I think that our job as board members and as a community is to get behind that kind of realism and compassion and really support him in that work."
Terry Godfrey said she agrees with the importance of a belief system and high expectations. She said "I think we're teetering on the edge" of the achievement gap and that it was also heartening to hear McGee's commitment to equity training.
Jay Cabrera said he wanted to admit he's not an expert on the issue, but that that achievement or learning has "nothing to do with low-income families, has nothing to do with families not supporting children or children not wanting to learn." He said he agrees with what had been said about belief systems and equity training, and that the board has to make sure to provide the resources to get these things done.
Catherine Crystal Foster said a few weeks ago, she was talking to a young Latina woman who recently graduated from Gunn who told her she felt very alone, that there weren't other people who looked like her at Gunn and that she didn't feel like she was good at math and didn't know where to go for help on it. She said there are a million stories out there like this one, and asked, "Where are we taking stories and translating them into data and action? … What do we know about the causes? I keep hearing we don't know because we don't evaluate. My first call is, let's start evaluating."
Each day, high school Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) students use public transportation and bus passes to travel 1-1/2 hours each way. Would you be in favor of funding an additional bus to shorten this commute time?
Jay Cabrera said yes, and that he is a proponent of reducing the district's reserve cap from 10 percent to between 5 to 8 percent to loosen up more dollars to pay for things like this.
Terry Godfrey said as a student-centered district, that seems like something the district should take a look at.
Ken Dauber said of course, and that he wanted to "contrast the fact that we haven't gotten something as simple as this done that really puts students first with other spending we've done that doesn't put students first." He cited "ballooning" legal fees in the past five years on litigation with special education families and Office for Civil Rights cases. He said the district needs to reprioritize and spend money on things like this that directly benefit students.
Gina Dalma said yes, and that she thinks the Strategic Plan should better clarify what activities the district is spending on that go toward a vision of success for all kids. She echoed that it's a "matter of prioritization" and the district should look at "where we're spending additional resources, for example the legal fees, and make sure that all expenses are really focused on achieving our vision of excellent education for all kids. This seems pretty simple to me."
Catherine Crystal Foster agreed that this seems straightforward and "very aligned to what our students need. ... Let's go for what's easy and what works when it is going to have a great impact on our kids."
What is your stand on mental health support in our schools?
Catherine Crystal Foster said she thinks the community is in many ways "still reeling from the horrible wake-up call that we had several years ago with the suicide contagion." She said she is pleased that the district has hired more staff, such as social workers, at elementary, middle and high school levels. She said the district "has a wonderful partner in Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS)" and should evaluate how well ACS is addressing students' needs.
Ken Dauber said ACS reported recently that they've had a 17 percent increase in referrals for services around student stress. He said this is the issue that called him and a lot of parents to advocate for concrete action and improvements. He referenced his work on the homework policy and counseling changes as evidence for his commitment. "I think you should ask all of us, what have you done in our schools to address this?" he said. "It's important you see not only commitment to ideas but commitment in terms of showing up and getting things done."
Terry Godfrey said she thinks the increase in ACS referrals is in part because the stigma around mental health is starting to fade away. She also referenced a Project Safety Net team working on a "story project" on young adults who have dealt with mental illness to try to "make kids understand they're not alone. The stigma around it shouldn't prevent them from getting help."
Gina Dalma said she's pleased that there's a consensus among all the candidates on what student success is, which is when students reach their social, emotional and academic potential. She said "the starting point is very good" and suggested evaluation, vision, will and funding would help scale programs currently in place in the district.
Jay Cabrera said that there is a lot of pressure on Palo Alto students to be the best and achieve very high goals. He suggested implementing a rewards system that rewards all students, "for getting a B, for just being able to stay alive."
I have extreme distrust of PAUSD based on my experience in the IEP process. I had to hire an advocate to get the accommodations my child required. What will you do to ensure my very negative experience is not repeated for other students? How would you build better communication and collaboration between families with students in special education and district staff?
Gina Dalma said the district needs to build the communication channels necessary to provide parents that information so they feel better supported throughout the process. She said the infrastructure needs to be in place so every parent knows who to call and a process that ensures they are heard in their request.
Jay Cabrera said he talked to a Gunn student recently on "falling through the cracks" and that if a student or family cannot get the resources they need, the system has failed them. He said he didn't have an answer or solution to that, but that there should be some sort of back-up plan in place to prevent it from happening.
Catherine Crystal Foster said she's heard about both positive and negative experiences with the IEP process, but that the "best you can get is 'trust but verify.'" She said the district needs to set a more collaborative tone and put an actual structure so it's "not just an aspiration." After a structure is put in place, it should be evaluated.
Ken Dauber said "we have a lot of evidence that we have serious shortcomings in this area" and that many parents of special education students perceive the district as unresponsive and in some cases hostile. He also condemned the district's spending on legal fees in relation to cases with special education families. He said the way to get on the right path with special ed families is to get on the right path with civil rights, which is why he is completely committed to appealing the resolution against the Office for Civil Rights that the school board passed in June.
Terry Godfrey said that having a board liaison for CAC is important "so you can hear on-the-ground feedback right away." She also said McGee asking staff to report directly to him on special education is an "early indicator that he's serious" about rebuilding trust. She referenced her own "504 (Plan) journey" with her children, which she said was not too traumatic but contrasted starkly with a neighbor's more negative experience.
As a board member, will you clearly and unambiguously oppose the recent board resolution opposing the Office of Civil Rights?
Ken Dauber said yes. He read portions of the resolution that accuse OCR of being purposefully confrontational and disruptive of the educational process; that OCR staff lacked integrity. "Those are not words we want to put our district behind," he said. "I want to point out we have wasted an enormous amount of time, talent and treasure on this effort ... hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone into the classroom. I don't think a student-centered policy is at all consistent with that resolution."
Catherine Crystal Foster said "what all of us in this room want and what I want is to have a district that protects the rights of every single student that crosses the threshold of every single school." She said transparency is important and she doesn't want a school board that does things in closed session. She said that there is not enough information publicly available to know whether the allegations made in the resolution are true or not, but if they were not true, she would "absolutely oppose (the resolution) unambiguously." "What I think is most important as a school board member is what I will do to protect our students, (which) is I will cooperate fully and completely with OCR and make it my business to protect the rights of every student," she said.
Gina Dalma said yes, and that she disagreed with Foster. "I believe even the board said enough information was out to decide for the charges that they were putting in the resolution," she said. She also read portions from the resolution that accuse OCR of intentionally promoting confusion and concern and federal intrusion on public education. "The fact that we have a board that's able to put those words into a resolution (against an agency) whose main purpose is to defend civil rights, I think is outrageous."
Terry Godfrey said she hopes the board wouldn't have gotten to the point of the resolution had she been a part of the decision-making process. She said she "wouldn't want to spend the rest of her life" rescinding the resolution but wants to help OCR do a post-mortem to understand how things can go more smoothly.
Jay Cabrera said his priorities are collaboration and transparency and thus, he would vote to repeal the resolution. He said the board needs to ensure "that we as a school board and as a district accept our faults, accept that mistakes were made on potentially all sides and to work mutually on solutions." He added that the "idea of secret board meetings is a problem" and that CAC or some organization should have a public observer at every meeting about delicate student issues.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for the school district in regards to supporting children with special needs and supporting students of color?
Gina Dalma said that it is believing that "we're the best performing school district" so not being able to see where the district can learn and grow. She said she thinks PAUSD needs to become more of a learning institution, embrace innovation and prioritize how its most disadvantaged kids are doing.
Terry Godfrey said it has to do with distracted or unfocused goals. "I think we're much more likely to hit a goal if we actually set it." She said parent education can play a role in better meeting goals and making progress.
Jay Cabrera said this goes back to issues of leadership and allowing leadership to "expand and evolve." He described a sense of urgency in addressing issues that face children with special needs and students of color.
Ken Dauber said the biggest obstacle is complacency. He used the achievement gap as an example, saying that there is an "acceptance that the achievement gap is a description of reality as opposed to a call for action." He said the board should see these kind of issues not as fact, but as calls to action.