schools

35-year-old Lilliemarie Gore leads students of Idylwild Elementary School through a series of math exercises. Mrs. Gore was awarded the title of "2017-2018 Alachua County Teacher of the Year" earlier this month.

 

When the results of the 2018 Florida Standard Assessment came out, Alachua County Public Schools found itself at the top — for the widest achievement gap between white and African American students.

Alachua County schools have the largest gap in the state in English Language Arts, Math and Science and the second largest gap in Social Studies, said Valerie Freeman, the Alachua County Public Schools educational equity director. To help bridge the gap, Freeman presented an equity plan that was rolled out Aug. 13.

“We have to look not for a bandage fix but for a transformation,” Freeman said.

The plan lists five categories of goals: student achievement, advanced coursework, graduation rate, student discipline and diversity of the workforce. It will be continuously edited to align with the district’s goals and reviewed in the middle and end of the school year, she said.

For this school year, the plan will focus on the largest disparity data has shown, which is between white and black students, Freeman said.

Four schools in the district are piloting the AVID program, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Mebane Middle School, Santa Fe High School, Westwood Middle School and Gainesville High School are implementing the college readiness program, Freeman said.

Westwood Middle School is also integrating other strategies that promote organization and readiness. Students are also taking college readiness electives, where they research colleges and career options, said Ginger Stanford, assistant principal.

“They have control of their learning and they can advocate for their own education,” she said.

Stanford said she’s already received calls from parents saying they’ve noticed a difference in their child’s organizational skills.

The plan also introduces a credit retrieval program, which lets students make up classes they may have failed and sets up individual learning plans for students who aren’t on track to graduate. The goal is to raise the graduation rate for black students by 3 percent each year, according to the document.

In the year leading up to the proposal of the equity plan, Alachua County teachers and administrators received training to develop culturally responsive classrooms. This training included having discussions about race and addressing implicit biases, Freeman said.

An integral part of the plan includes diversifying the public school workforce, Freeman said. The hope is to recruit at more job fairs in order to increase the number of black teachers and administrators by 10 percent each year to mirror the county’s racial demographic, according to the plan.

“In order to have success for all, we have to be able to teach for all,” Freeman said.

Contact Jessica Curbelo at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jesscurbelo

Jessica Curbelo, a UF journalism junior, is one of the Alligator's crime reporters. She is also a senior editor for Her Campus UFL.