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    Suspension rates, achievement gap high for Loudoun’s minority students

    Loudoun’s minority students see a wide achievement gap and higher rates of suspension compared to non-minorities, according to two reports presented at a March 24 School Board meeting.

    The Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee and the Discipline Committee reported their findings to the School Board. In both presentations, the issue of diversity in Loudoun’s school arose.

    MSAAC urged the School Board to work with Loudoun schools to intervene, closing the gap and ensuring preventative measures that diminish suspension numbers across the board, being aware of what biases may exist.

    The achievement gap

    That gap is the difference in academic performance between student groups, including race and economic status.

    For Loudoun’s students from 2011 to 2014, Hispanic and black students under-performed compared to their non-black, non-Hispanic peers.

    This trend was common across both math and English scores:

    Percentage of students who scored proficient in English by race                                                                      
    Group 2011201220132014
    Black84%82%68%70%
    Hispanic81%80%65%67%
    White95%95%87%88%
    Asian94%95%88%89%

     

     

    Percentage of students who scored proficient in math by race                                                                      
    Group 2011201220132014
    Black77%56%61%63%
    Hispanic78%57%61%64%
    White93%80%82%84%
    Asian95%86%89%91%

     

    A discrepancy in these areas between the low-income students, English language learners and students receiving special education also exists compared to all students.

     

    Percentage of students who scored proficient in math by student group                                                                      
    Group 2011201220132014
    Economically disadvantaged74%51%56%59%
    English language learners75%52%53%58%
    SPED participants66%46%48%50%
    All students89%75%79%81%

     

     

    Percentage of students who scored proficient in English by student group                                                                      
    Group 2011201220132014
    Economically disadvantaged76%75%59%62%
    English language learners70%71%47%51%
    SPED participants68%66%50%54%
    All students92%92%83%84%

     

    Interestingly, the data shows a decrease in proficiency across all groups over the four-year span.

    The presentation attributes the drop to a shift from a memorization-based teaching curriculum to one based in application and critical thinking between 2012 and 2013.

    The consistent under-performance of certain minority groups has MSAAC officials worried.

    According to the committee’s chair, Kenya Savage, one of the biggest steps toward fixing the issue is giving all students the support they need to excel, including:

    -Providing quality curriculum and making it accessible to all students.

    -Encouraging minority students to engage in advanced-level courses.

    -Improving access to technology.

    -Diversifying teacher teams to reflect diversity in the students.

    Above all, the goal of these steps is to lend the relationships between students and teachers who can relate to them.

    According to Savage, that doesn’t mean teachers have to be a particular race. It just means they need to be trained on the best ways to interact with their students.

    To help bring that support to kids who might not have a supportive home life, the committee suggested parent delegates be put in place at each of the 87 schools in the county.

    Disciplinary issues

    According to MSAAC’s study, Hispanics and black students were two and three times more likely to be suspended than white students.

    Disabled students were four times more likely than those without disabilities to receive a suspension.

    The Discipline Committee’s report for 2009 to 2014 shows black, Hispanic and American Indian students have the highest risk of suspension among all racial groups.

    Across those five years, 685 students were suspended or expelled out of 71,304 enrolled.
    White students had by far the largest rate of enrollment at 38,840, making up more than half of Loudoun’s total school population, but the group’s risk percentage is proportionately lower than their black and Hispanic peers.

    Risk ratios for suspension by subgroup from 2009 to 2014 for Loudoun’s schools                                                                                                
    GroupStudents enrolledStudents suspendedRisk of suspended group
    American Indian/Alaskan/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander508112.17%
    Asian12,450600.48%
    Black4,7951432.98%
    Hispanic11,1751511.35%
    White38,8402890.74%
    Two or more race3,536310.88%
    All students71,3046850.96%

     

    The Discipline Committee is reviewing the collected data to see if there’s a difference in how discipline is handled between each subgroup and whether unequal treatment is the culprit behind these numbers.

    The committee raised the question: “Are certain groups more likely to be suspended than others?”

    While no answer was given, the committee suggested researching successful strategies to ensure equal treatment across the board while also finding a way to measure the fairness of those methods.

    “The country is having about the same kind of issue. A little more disparate with us [Loudoun schools],” said committee member Ryan Tyler, who gave the presentation. “What are the origins of this? Great news as far as overall numbers but there’s something for us to tackle as far as what we see as disparities.”

    The School Board expressed a desire to move forward with these suggestions, saying the information is a first step toward greater understanding and identification of problem spots and areas of improvement for both the achievement gap and suspension rates.

    “It is sobering in someways to look at it, but the first step to making change is to find out what is happening,” said Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn).

     

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