Join tonight’s Achievement Gap discussion

Sorry, I should have posted this earlier. For all of you spontaneous folks, Mills College is holding a free event at 6:30 p.m. tonight to talk about the Achievement Gap — whether it can be eliminated, and how. The discussion will air soon on KQED and KAWL, if you can’t make it in person.

Here are the details, from the release:


Oakland, CA—February 6, 2008. Mills College will host a community conversation on “Public Education and the Achievement Gap” on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm at Lisser Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA. The event is free and open to the public.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, African American and Latino students’ reading and mathematics skills at the end of high school are roughly the same as those of white students in 8th grade.

Can this disparity in public education be eliminated? Join policy makers, students, and teachers to discuss the causes and solutions to the achievement gap among African American and Latino students and their peers.

Led by Rose Aguilar, host of “Your Call,” daily public affairs show on KALW 91.7 FM, a panel of participating Bay Area educational leaders will

    * Russlyn Ali, founding director, The Education Trust–West
    * Ronnisha Johnson, student, Philip and Sala Burton High School
    * Mark Sanchez, president, San Francisco Board of Education
    * Olis Simmons, executive director, Youth UpRising

The program will air on both KQED and KALW and is part of a series of community conversations sponsored by Mills College and the local public radio stations. Next month’s topic is on conscious consumption and participants will examine how Bay Area cities are changing policy to address global climate change.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • dd

    Where are all the teachers on this panel?
    Shouldn’t there be somebody who witnesses what happens in the classroom everyday, how the students behavior, their level of preparation, to talk about these issues?

  • Sue Scott

    I was quite disappointed with the broadcast. You are right, few teachers spoke. Especially teachers with any long term experience in our district. I was hoping to bring up the testing schedules in Oakland. The importance of seasoned, creative, dynamic teachers. I am a 4/5 teacher in Oakland. We are testing our children 15 times this year. This is a district required testing cycle. That is more than a test a month. Our poor schools, where the achievement gap is the greatest, the schools are testing machines. Currently I try to teach between the test. My goal is to get students to read, write and have original thought. Our most recent essay was, “Was the Boston Massacre Really a Massacre?” Every student had a slightly different idea. They were outstanding. I was so impressed. Nothing is bubbled in in my classroom until I have to give the required tests. And that is why the private testing companies are the safest investment in our slow economy. Did anyone see the Nightly Business Report on education? The testing corporations are a 1.7 billion dollar business. Public education really isn’t public anymore. Certainly not in our urban school districts. Certainly not where the achievement gap is the big topic of conversation. Prove me wrong. Look on our big urban district websites. You don’t have to dig deep to see the for profit business all over our urban landscapes. Look what happened to our healthcare system. Our education system is also being privatized. And most people are still talking about underpaid teachers, lack of qualified teachers, all the isms; race, class, culture. Everyone complains, while the for profit businesses take our public education from us. No one seems to know about the elephant in the closet. Certainly not this radio broadcast team.

  • elliotness786

    if anyone has bothered to look into the topic, public education -especially urban public school ed. – is nothing but a contract hustle like everything else (same goes for college, too). kudos to you Sue Scott for quoting that number.

    if you want to see an excellent depiction of what goes on in urban school district accompanied by all of the problems associated with operating in that environment, watch Season 4 of the HBO series “The Wire” – it’s hands down the best thing being broadcasted on American television. they get it right – spot on.

    also see:




  • Nextset

    Katy, are you going to have a blog topic on the ACHIEVEMENT GAP in OUSD? It would be interesting to read what the members think is behind it and what can be done to bring up the black & hispanic performance.

  • Debora

    Our school is closing the achievement GAP a little at a time. The teachers at our school are, for the most part, caring, creative, talented, motivated and understand and care about closing the achievement GAP.

    However, I recently read a book recommended to me by someone on this blog –Unequal childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life — and it fit our school EXACTLY. They could have been interviewing families from OUR school for the book and had the same response. Basically, parents who are poor do not believe it is there responsibility to help their children succeed. They believe it is the responsibility of professionals, such as teachers and principals.

    Poor parents / guardians often do not participate in parent teacher conferences – indeed, some do not attend – but those who do, do not question the teacher on the methods of teaching, what can be done at home, the public library, or even tutoring that may be available. The children come to school hungry, as a matter of circumstance, so that even if they get a “free” lunch, it’s hard for them to concentrate in the morning.

    And, as with many of the responses on this blog, many working class African American and Hispanic families have expressed extreme frustration that their local schools are allotted nearly $10,000 per student as a title 1 school, yet the students are not performing well.

    Like Sue, I think some of the testing is ridiculous. However, unlike Sue, I know that without the testing, our Oakland Schools would not have changed their methods of teaching to reach those children of color. And the learning environment that we have had for many decades would have continued to benefit white and Asian students at the neglect of the others.

    I know that the Socratic method of teaching as Sue has described using it in her classroom is very useful – but primarily for white and Asian students from lower to upper middle class backgrounds as they have been taught how to question assumptions, question authority and question things identified as answers or conclusions. However, poor children, particularly those of color and backgrounds, where being respectful of elders and those in authority are important and reinforced values, do not do as well in a classroom using Socratic methods of teaching.

    We need to understand the culture of our children and their families to move education forward.