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Addressing the Achievement Gap in Our Schools

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Addressing the AchievementGap in Our Schools

By Steven D. Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools

Perhaps the most common disadvantage children face in Sonoma County is poverty. In 2015, 47 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch. The “Portrait of Sonoma” study, commissioned by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and released in 2014, highlights this. The study finds that gaps in educational achievement in our county stem largely from poverty and parental education levels. 

We still have a lot of work to do in narrowing the achievement gap of the students in our county, as recent standardized test results show. Among students who took the Smarter Balanced tests in 2016, there was a 31 point difference in English Language Arts (ELA) between the percent of economically disadvantaged students who met or exceeded the standard and the percent of students who were not economically disadvantaged who met or exceeded the standard. In math, there was a 28 point difference. 

 This achievement gap did not happen overnight and can’t be fixed overnight. But the state has created a new mechanism to address and hopefully narrow the discrepancy. In a historic shift, California’s Local Control Funding Formula provides extra money to school districts with a certain number of students in three key groups: Low income, foster youth, and English learners. The goal is to allow school districts to direct extra funds toward those students, providing them the social, emotional, and academic supports they need to overcome adversity and achieve on the same level as their classmates.

 Parents and community members have an important role to play in helping districts determine how best to spend these extra funds. I encourage you to learn more and get involved. One way to do this is by participating in Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) stakeholder meetings that each district is required to hold, or you can attend a school board meeting. You can read your district’s LCAP by going to Scoe.org/LCAP.