Palo Alto school board to discuss achievement gap committee

McGee proposes citizen advisory task force to tackle minority achievement, access

Superintendent Max McGee's call for an achievement gap task force made up of students, teachers and community members will come before the school board Tuesday night for discussion.

McGee announced the agenda item during a live call-in show last week, calling for a systemwide solution to a problem long felt at all levels in the school district. He emphasized that despite the success of individual school sites' work on the achievement gap, Palo Alto is in need of a more collective approach on this issue.

"School sites have taken some good initiatives, but we really need to approach this as a districtwide system," he told the Weekly the day after the call-in show.

"The two issues are closing the achievement gap and assuring all students, including those of color and socio-economically disadvantaged, have opportunities to access support for not just becoming proficient but really excelling and having access to the top classes," he added.

McGee's agenda report on the advisory committee includes Palo Alto Unified's data on the A-G graduation requirements, critical for high school seniors' entry to the University of California or state colleges.

In 2013, 46 percent of socio-economically disadvantaged seniors, 52 percent of English learners, 50 percent of Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) students and 41 percent of students of parents without a college degree met the requirements.

Thirty-three percent of African-American students met the requirements, compared to 58 percent in 2012. Fifty-five percent of Hispanic students met them, versus 51 percent the year before.

What has been dubbed the "superintendent's minority achievement and talent development committee" will be charged with analyzing such data and talking to students, parents, faculty and staff in order to identify critical issues Palo Alto faces on the achievement gap. For each issue, the committee will be responsible for developing a strategic, evidence-based recommendation, backed by specific metrics for evaluation and draft cost estimates for its implementation. The committee will also be asked to identify any potential policy issues the board should consider developing and adopting.

The advisory committee will be made up of two administrators, four faculty and staff, four students, four parents and four community members, according to the Tuesday board agenda. A district administrator and member of the community will serve as co-chairs. Appropriate staff will be assigned to support the committee and will be held accountable for assuring the report is completed in a timely manner, which at this point has a deadline of April of next year.

McGee said they're beginning to schedule committee meetings and are aiming to convene the very first one on election day, Nov. 4. Meetings will generally be held on Tuesday afternoon or evenings when there is no board meeting. He hopes to begin the application process as soon as this week, he said.

In other business Tuesday, the board will vote on the adoption of a revised conflict-of-interest code, which is reviewed every other year, and an authorization to solicit bids for two projects for the corporation yard, which is located on Palo Alto High School's campus. The district plans to relocate and then renovate a portable, which will be placed in the corporation yard and will house training and meeting for Maintenance, Operations and Transportation (MOT). This project has an estimated cost of $140,000 and is funded by the 2008 Strong Schools Bond. The second project, replacing the yard's existing fire alarm system, would cost an estimated $165,000 and will be paid for by the Deferred Maintenance Fund.

View the board meeting agenda here. The board will meet in open session at 6:30 p.m. in district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave., Palo Alto.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Grandfather Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I would like to ask the candidates and our new Superintendent two questions:
1) Which language or languages should be implemented? How will this satisfy the multicultural residents of Palo Alto?
[the reason is that there are many possibilities: Chinese, Mexican, one or more of the "Romance Languages", Japanese, etc. My personal preference is Japanese, for the sake of my grandchildren who have relatives in Japan, and are learning Japanese (since birth) as a second language. I would like to see them continue in school. I'm sure many other parents and grandparents have similar situations.]
2) I see a lot of discussion about "achievement gap". How are you going to encourage our best and brightest to develop to their FULLEST potential? Gen Z presents a whole new challenge to review and update our educational paradigm.
[The implication is that "closing the gap" would involve a Procrustean policy that would attempt to flatten the difference between high and low achieving students to a mediocre average. That is not acceptable! There needs to be more gap, not less. It must be up to individual students and parents to decide to be below or above average, and by how much. There is a critical need for ALL of our students to be challenged to achieve their fullest potential.]

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Procrustean (ref above comment) -- I doubt you'll find that adjective on the SAT anymore.

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