Op-Ed: School District of Indian River County, FL.

By Claudia Wahl

FOCUS: Student Academic Performance

We all have questions about how the interruption in student learning during these unprecedented times has impacted every student and school in Indian River County, and we will continue to do so. We don’t yet know what the impact of this crisis will be on SDIRC students, but we have good reason to believe that it may be negative and exacerbate existing achievement gaps.

In my view, simply hoping that kids are okay or relying on assurances from SDIRC leadership is not a strategy. We much hold the school district accountable. We need evidence.

Data should be a priority in order to understand the current crisis and to ensure all students succeed. Data by itself will not solve the challenges that our school district is facing right now. But data will help answer critical questions. Because the crisis impacts groups of students differently, no matter what data SDIRC leaders and teachers are looking at, data must be disaggregated (available by different student groups) to meet each students needs and support their learning.

There is a critical question, the answer to which has proven so far to be elusive in SDIRC.

How do we know when one school is better and more effective than others in supporting ALL student groups? And perhaps more crucially, given the current challenges and crises, which of our schools work best for highest-need and most vulnerable students in our communities? And Why?

One example: SDIRC Advanced Courses Achievement Gap.

Should we be concerned about the lack of opportunities for many middle and high school students in Indian River County to take (and pass) advanced coursework they need for success in college and beyond? According to SDIRC participation and performance trend data since 2014, disaggregated by schools – absolutely yes, we should be very concerned.

Does a “troubling racial gap in advanced high school courses” exist in Indian River County? In our school district’s current accountability system, it has been my observation over a long period of time that attempts to accurately evaluate a school’s true impact on its neediest students is consistently met with pushback, intimidation, and barriers against the public’s right to know.

For example, SDIRC is charging the public $ 105 per academic year to access the Advanced Placement data disaggregated by different student groups. Charges also apply to access International Baccalaureate data, as well as many other areas of academic achievement and achievement gaps.

Last week, I received written confirmation from SDIRC Curriculum and Instruction (STEAM Department) that it does not track/analyze this level of data. FYI – this level of data is a requirement of the 2018 Joint Plan for Unitary Status.

Unfortunately, the ongoing inability to access SDIRC’s information on academic achievement will continue until they are forced to release it. Despite SDIRC having confirmed a good data system is in place, it is either not tracking disaggregated data or is willfully withholding public information to avoid accountability and transparency (which would be violations of FL Statutes).

Either way, it’s certainly troubling.

“Best by Kids”? When is the last time our school board focused on academic achievement and achievement gaps?


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