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Achievement gap in schools getting worse


The achievement gap between black and white students in the Indian River County School District is getting worse, not better, according to 2016-17 Florida Standards Assessment data released by the district.

Meanwhile, a proposed African American Achievement Plan the district has been working on to remedy the gap – as required by a desegregation order in effect since 1967 – remains stalled. 

Dr. Jacqueline Warrior, local-chapter NAACP education chairperson, says just getting the district to start on the incomplete plan was a struggle.

“The last two years of work on this plan have been tedious at best,” she said.

Warrior worked with Director of Elementary Education Deb Berg and Director of Secondary Programs Deborah Long on plan drafts.

Berg and Long are no longer in those positions, but Long, as “equity director,” is still involved with closing the achievement gap.

Warrior is not pleased with the latest state test results. “It appears more black students are falling into the lower levels than climbing into the upper levels – the trend we are trying to reverse.” 

There are five levels of achievement on the Florida Standards Assessment exams, with level one the lowest.  Levels three and above are considered passing.

The key indicator of future academic success – 3rd-grade scores – showed a 5 percent decrease in the number of black students passing English in 2016-17. Only 39 percent of black students passed English compared to 69 percent for white students at that level, a 30 percent achievement gap that expands in later school grades.

The worst result was 6th-grade English, with 14 percent more black students in level one than had been the year before.  In 4th-grade math, 10 percent more were in level one.

“The African American Achievement Plan is a working plan in progress,” School Board Member Laura Zorc said. “Many factors are going to have to come together because I do not see one easy fix or solution to the achievement gap.  

“This is not going to happen overnight. We didn't get here overnight, therefore it's unrealistic to expect a quick fix to a decade or more of achievement decline. In the long term, I don't see it working if we can't get more parental involvement and participation.” 

Superintendent Mark Rendell declined to comment on black students’ worsening test scores or the status of the so-called African American Achievement Plan, which was supposed to help the district get out from under a decades old federal desegregation order.