Study Shows Racial Achievement Gaps In Reno Students

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For the first time the Washoe County School District is releasing data that show significant achievement gaps by race. The district is beginning what it expects to be a difficult conversation.

Chief Accountability Officer Ben Hayes, presents student achievement data each year, but this year for the first time that data included breakdowns by race and gender. 

“We are showing our black eyes as well as our pretty hats toda,” Hayes said.

The data shows Hispanics and African Americans performing 15-percent below the average. Hayes says he knows what’s coming next.

“What we call fierce conversations, courageous conversations and bravery come into play and you never want to know that what your institution has been working on is not working for all kids,” says Hayes.

Superintendent Pedro Martinez say one reason for the achievement gap is a form of untended discrimination.

“We over discipline our children that are for example African American, Latinos that are English language learners that are special education.”

So, while minority student misbehavior is punished, white kids who misbehave are presumed to be bored and given advanced placement. As a result white students account for 61-percent of advance placement and hispanic students only 24-percent.

New data from the Washoe County School District is showing significant gaps in achievement by gender and race. The data show minorities have low achievement in the double digits by third grade. The district has discussed the information internally for years, but is releasing it to the public for the first time to begin a difficult conversation says Chief Accountability Officer Ben Hayes.

“We know that there are institutional problems with access we know that we have to begin earlier on in the pathway and to be honest we know that we are not doing as well as we should be in some areas.”

He points to a double standard that he says is common across the country. Minorities, males in particular, are often punished for misbehaving while white students who misbehave are put in advanced placement. The district is working on a new strategic and identifying ways to help minorities. Washoe County is using St. Paul as a model. It has higher expectations for students,  all teachers are qualified to teach english as a second language and there is a high teacher to student ratio.


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