CLOSING OPPORTUNITY GAPS
An Action Plan for Accelerating Achievement
for African American Males
and Other Students of Color
In this document, the District commits to some very specific benchmarks:
- Every student will achieve proficiency in Reading and Mathematics by end of Grade 2.
- Every student will have a personal learning plan and an advocate/mentor to keep him on track to high school graduation and successful post-secondary transition.
- Every student will meet standards of performance in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science at the end of key transition grades.
- Every student will receive fair and equitable treatment regarding discipline and access to rigorous instructional programs.
- Every student will graduate from high school prepared for success in college or career.
Whenever I see commitments of this kind from the School District, I always want to ask "What if it doesn't go like that?"
What if there is a student who has not achieved proficiency in Reading and Mathematics by the end of Grade 2? What then? Will the student be assigned to summer school until proficiency is achieved? Will the student be made to repeat the grade? What? The Action Plan doesn't say. Wasn't 100% passage of state proficiency tests derided as a ridiculous goal when it was part of No Child Left Behind? Why is it not ridiculous in this Action Plan?
This Plan says that EVERY student will have an advocate/mentor. Every student? All 53,000 of them? And if it doesn't mean EVERY student, then what does it mean?
What if there's a student who does not meet standards of performance in Reading, Writing, Mathematics or Science at the end of one of the key transition grades? What then? Will the student be enrolled in summer school? Will the student be sent back to elementary school or middle school instead of advancing? The Action Plan doesn't say. Again, wasn't this goal regarded as absurd before? What changed?
How will the District assure that students receive fair and equitable treatment regarding discipline? If the District could do this, then why haven't they done it before now?
This is my favorite: Every student will graduate from high school. Really. We're going to have a 100% graduation rate. That will be nice.
I have seen this type of lie before. Joseph Olchefske used to call them "aspirational goals". That means that they are only symbols and that they should not be taken seriously and that there will be no real effort to achieve them and no one held accountable for failing to meet them. They are, in short, bullshit.
But wait! There's more!
Wait til you see how the District is going to make these things happen.
1.1 Beliefs, Attitudes and Behaviors
Shift mindset to a high-expectation, asset based, growth orientation
1.2 Positive Relationships with Effective Discipline
Nurture students’ sense of belonging and appropriate conduct
1.3 Culturally Relevant and Rigorous Instruction
Cultivate students’ commitment to academic excellence
2.1 Safe and Respectful Learning Environments
Demonstrate sincere commitment to students’ socio-emotional and academic success
2.2 Positive Support Network for Students and Families
Provide students and their families with a seamless web of “safety nets”
2.3 Black Male Youth Leadership Institute
Personalize each student’s journey towards college and career readiness
3.1 Authentic Family and Community Outreach
Enhance effectiveness of district employees’ interactions with students and families
3.2 Practitioners’ Academies
Strengthen cultural competence of teachers, leaders and staff
3.3 Cadre of Certified Equity Facilitators
Build sustainable, system-wide professional capabilities
4.1 Equitable Budgeting, Hiring and Staff Placement
Increase each school’s chances of closing opportunity gaps
4.2 Results-focused Planning, Collaboration and Reporting
Ensure a focus on and continuous improvement of outcomes for African American males
4.3 Data Dashboard and Personalized Monitoring
Pay consistent attention to each student’s progress towards individual learning goals and college & career readiness
I have to say that I have seen my share of edu-babble and PC nonsense. I have even indulged in it myself, but I don't think I have ever seen it piled quite this high. Apparently, all the District has to do to close the Opportunity Gap is be mindful.
Again, I have to ask: What are they going to do when reality doesn't conform with their Utopian dream? Where is there any real work in this? Where is the effort to provide students with the real supports they need to succeed?
It would be nice to just laugh at this and not think about it any more, but there is this one ominous element on the last page. Among the factors critical to successful implementation is this one:
Accountability for performance with celebration of progress, to honor accomplishments and renew the spirit.Now who do you think will be subject to this "accountability"? Do you think it will be students, families, community members, the board, the superintendent, the cabinet-level project manager or principals? Or do you think it will be teachers?