Newspaper article News Sentinel

Closing Gaps in Achievement, Discipline Vital

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Closing Gaps in Achievement, Discipline Vital

Article excerpt

Next month the Knox County Board of Education will consider adopting the recommendations of a task force that has studied disparities in disciplinary actions and academic achievement for longer than a year.

Closing the gaps will take a commitment from students and their families, educators, the school board, county commissioners and the community at large.

The Disparities in Educational Outcomes task force presented data and action items at a Wednesday school board meeting. The task force, formed in November 2014, aims to reduce disparities in discipline and education that might be connected to race, income, disability, language or gender.

The data the task force collected are not surprising to those who follow eduction issues, with poverty being the common denominator. John Beckett, director of research and evaluation for the district, said academic achievement goes up when suspension rates drop. Disparities in discipline, he told the board, exist for students who are black, students with disabilities, students living in poverty and male students. He said that poverty affects educational outcomes for all groups of students.

A closer look at graduation rates and other achievement measures is illuminating. The graduation rate in 2014 for all Knox County students was 88.7 percent, but only 81.3 percent of economically disadvantaged students received diplomas. Among all students in grades 6-8, nearly 60 percent were proficient or advanced in English language skills, while only 40.7 percent of students from poor families scored that well. The results are nearly identical for high school students in Algebra II.

Interestingly, the data suggest that students from low-income families score higher academically if they are in the minority at their school. At Farragut High School, where only 10 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced meals, about three out of four economically disadvantaged students are proficient or advanced in Algebra I and II. In contrast, only about one in four such students were proficient in Algebra I and II at Fulton High School, where students from poor families make up two-thirds of the student body. …

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