Closing the Achievement Gap: Seattle Tries Again. (Notebook: Educations Information from Schools, Business, Research and Professional Organizations)

Article excerpt

Since 1986, the Seattle School District has twice tried to tackle racial disparities in discipline and academic achievement. Despite these efforts, the achievement gap has remained fairly constant: African-American, Hispanic and Native American students continue to score lower on standardized tests than white students, and black students are suspended or expelled more often than whites.

But the district is not giving up. It recently adopted its third disproportionality plan, and its new goal is to eliminate the gap by 2005.

Unlike earlier attempts, the most recent plan represents an ongoing commitment to the problem. "This effort is much more aligned to the nature of the problem. It's a long-term problem, and there is no cookbook recipe with the answer," explains district Superintendent Joseph Olchefske. The district formed a standing Disproportionality Action Committee, comprised of teachers, administrators, parents and community members, to monitor the plan and provide input.

While the district's previous plans did not eliminate racial disparities, the district did accomplish many interim objectives, Olchefske says. For one, resource reallocation is "critical," he says. …