Palo Alto High School has been applauded as one of the most academically competitive environments in the nation. However, achievement gaps between racial groups in the school remains an issue.
For the past five years, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) has received a score of a D+ or lower in educating minorities. This statistic is based on reports from an Oakland-based advocacy group known as Education Trust-West. PAUSD has worked to close this gap, but in the past few years, its attempts have failed.
“The achievement gap is the single most critical issue in American education,” PAUSD superintendent Max McGee said. “This study illustrates the difference in academic performance between low-income children and their peers, between minority children and their classmates, and between those schools that serve a majority of children from low-income families and those that serve a more advantaged population.”
McGee attributed the cause of the achievement gap to the community’s low awareness of minorities’ academic problems. Along with this, teachers inability to set high standards for students instead of the usual mediocre ones and inability to act as leaders in the classroom exacerbate this problem. Financial problems come into play as well, as many of the minorities who learn in PAUSD are socioeconomically disadvantaged and unable to hire tutors.
However, Mcgee remains optimistic about the situation.
On Nov. 19, McGee announced a 22 person committee dedicated to closing this achievement gap. The goal for this committee is to successfully address the achievement gap and better support talent development for minority or socioeconomically disadvantaged students in the district. McGee announced this committee to the board of education because there had yet to be a team fully dedicated to the issue. The commmittee meets every month and will suggest potential policy changes for the board to adopt. The committee’s meetings are open to the public, in the PAUSD Office Board Room.
“It’s going to be much better year starting next year,” McGee said “With this new committee, I’m trying to create this sense of urgency that this achievement gap has to be a priority.”
McGee believes that a child needs full support from his or her commnnity in order to succeed academically.
“It is simply a myth that academically talented children will thrive on their own,” McGee wrote in “A Gifted Child Today”. “This is especially true of those who live and learn in under resourced urban environments, and our nation will pay a price for our inattention. ”
Existing solutions to this problem are the creations of programs solely focused on the minority population.
“PAUSD has implemented support systems and programs for underserved students like Focus on Success, [Advancement Via Individual Determination], College Pathways, etc. [Voluntary Transfer Program]buses students in to PAUSD from East Palo Alto,” Gunn High School student Shannon Yang said.