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San Diego Unified Targets African-American Achievement

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San Diego public school students are scoring higher on state English and math tests, but the achievement gap for African-American and Hispanic students persists. The school district is starting an effort focused specifically on improving African and African-American students’ school performance.

African and African-American students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from San Diego city schools than their peers. Just 78.7 percent graduate from high school, compared to the district’s average of 84.5 percent, and white students' graduation rate of 91.4 percent.

This fall the district will start implementing programs directed at turning those numbers around.

Principals will be responsible for reporting on the academic achievement of their African and African-American students and implementing school-specific plans to target those students' performance.

The plan also includes additional cultural proficiency training for district staff, creating parent centers at every school, creating college preparation programs that target African and African-American students, and piloting single-gender classrooms for certain subjects in one middle school for the coming year.

An outline of the initiative was originally drafted by the Association of African-American Educators. The organization’s former president, Wendall Bass, applauded taking on the persistent achievement gap, but said he doesn’t think it’ll be easy.

“If you think it’s going to happen overnight, it’s not," he said. "And we need to be committed over the years to make certain that our children are educated. And I’m so committed that I will give you no rest until we do something to close the gap.”

Creating programs focused on improving the achievement of one group of students is about more than closing the persistent achievement gap, according to Bill Kowba, the district's superintendent.

"We believe in elevating the performance for any one group of kids, we elevate for the entire district," he said.

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