Phyllis Kimber Wilcox  

On October 14, 2021, California State Superintendent of a Public Instruction Tony Thurman, held a press briefing to discuss the student achievement gap and steps the state is taking to ensure the most vulnerable students have the needed resources to close it. 

California State Superintendent of a Public Instruction Tony Thurman discusses steps the state is taking to ensure the most vulnerable students have the needed resources to close the persistent achievement gap. (source: youtube.com)

The meeting centered around the introduction of a task force to study the issues and present findings to fill learning achievement gaps.

The Black Student Achievement Plan will address achievement gap issues which have developed between Black students and others. 

Efforts to close the gap includes more than one billion dollars to diversify the workforce by hiring more teachers; three billion dollars for community schools; and ten million dollars for anti-racism grants for schools to address historic issues of imbalance.

California Legislative Analyst Office January 31, 2020, report, Narrowing California’s K-12 Student Achievement Gaps. (source: lao,ca,gov)

In addition to Thurman, participants in the press briefing (who are also members of the task force) included California State Senator Sydney Kamalagar (D-30), Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, and the founder of UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools., Dr. Tyrone Howard, Distinguished Professor of Education at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, and Faculty Director of UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools., and Desiree Carver-Thomas, Researcher and Policy Analyst, Learning Policy Institute.

Dr. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Professor of History, African American Studies, and Urban Planning is also a member of the task force.

Issues and outcomes

The speakers addressed various issues including the best ways of assisting students to achieve more favorable outcomes. 

Kamlager stated “It is no surprise our student achievement gap remains unclosed and like so many instances of inequity it has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. We also know that student success is not only predicated on what happens in the classroom but on other environmental factors impacting our students. So, that’s why the Superintendent has called upon the best of the best to lead this task force.”

According to Dr Tyrone Howard, “What I’m also excited about is that this group of esteemed individuals recognize that this work is not for the faint at heart. People will criticize it. There are people who will say it is not necessary, who will say that helping Black students will take away from other students. But I agree with Senator Kamlager that this is not a zero-sum game.”

Community partnerships

The task force discussed partnering with community-based organizations to give students the help they need to succeed and achieve.

The Assocation of California School Administrators, “Research suggests that Title I schools—those receiving federal funds for low-income students—see turnover rates that are nearly 50 percent greater than other schools. Rates among Title I math and science teachers are nearly 70 percent greater. These factors are further aggravated in schools with a larger population of students of color.” (source: acsa.org)

According to task force members, the student achievement gap is three times greater in schools with the highest turnover rates. Highly trained teachers and a climate of student support can make the difference.

Phyllis Kimber-Wilcox is a freelance writer who reports for Black Voice News. Her interests are the intersections of historic events with contemporary realities and their impacts on the persistent social, structural and economic barriers which continue to adversely affect, and limit Black lives with an eye toward community-based solutions. Contact Phyllis with tips, comments. or concerns at phyllis@blackvoicenews.com.

Header photo: (source: pexels.com)