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Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition VSTC Testimony at TPS School Board

Testimony January 28, 2016--updated

President Vialle, Vice President Ushka, members of the Board, Supt. Santorno.
I am testifying this evening to ask that the Board and District set specific benchmark numerical goals for all student groups for whom you have promised to disaggregate data, and especially for those groups of students impacted by the Achievement Gap.
Strategic Plan Goal One reads:  “All students will perform at or above grade level and we will eliminate disparities among all groups of students.”

The Benchmark numerical goals that the Board has set thus far somewhat address “all students will perform at or above grade level” and do not address the “elimination of disparities among all groups of students.”
The Benchmarks in general will measure student learning based on two measures:  state tests, and report card standards.  This is part of the District’s commitment to using more than one measure to assess student progress.
Note that BOTH state test results AND Report Card Standards results show the same 15-20 percentage point gap between white students and Black and Latino students—for 3rd and 5th grade reading and math.  Note that the gap is the same regardless of which state test is used (WASL, MSP or Smarter Balanced).  Note that the gap is the same 15-20 percentage points for the three years of report card standards data that the District has provided.

In other words, no matter what measure or tool is used, the achievement gap persists.  And while there are individual schools that have made significant progress in closing the gap…there is not a visible, published, system-wide analysis of the gaps nor is there a visible, published, system-level plan to solve them.  The Achievement Gap portion of the District’s web site has not been updated since 2012.
The Board declined to set group-specific benchmark numerical goals for Goal One report card standards last year.  I request that the Board reconsider that decision tonight.

The language of Goal #1 includes the “elimination of disparities among all groups.”  How can the District systematically track progress toward that part of Goal One unless you set benchmark numerical goals to achieve it?
A very wise woman once said, “What gets measured, gets done.”  That very wise woman is, thankfully, our Superintendent.
Clearly, the top-level goal is for ALL students to be successful in their learning and achievement.  Students who are doing well—yes, we want them to do even better.

But when some groups of students are systematically scoring 15-20 percentage points below other groups—on multiple measures, and regardless of the measurement tool…it’s time to set strong and aspirational numerical goals for these students to catch up.  It’s time to develop and publish a system-level plan for closing the gaps.  It’s time to devise and publish system-wide strategies and approaches to make this happen.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests.