By Matthew Reitz
Officials in the Fulton City School District discussed changes to the Comprehensive District Education Plan last week with a focus on closing achievement gaps.
FCSD Director of Instruction and Development Elizabeth Conners presented the adjusted plan to the school board last Tuesday.
The changes to the CDEP are geared toward utilizing data and monitoring district processes to help reach a number of goals and objectives. The CDEP aims to close achievement gaps that persist among economically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities. Conners told the board the process was lengthy, but informative.
“It gives us a chance to really look at our data and look at where we are going,” Conners said.
Conners said the main academic goal for the district was to achieve a 5 percent annual increase in rates of proficiency and college and career readiness.
“Goal number one is to increase college and career readiness,” Conners said. “That’s the same, it has not changed.”
The district also hopes to have 80 percent of students consistently meeting behavior expectations, and to engage all families in the education of their students. Conners said the CDEP changed “a bit” with regard to engaging families.
“It’s not about just communicating anymore, but how do we really engage people,” Conners said.
The importance of community engagement with economically disadvantaged students and their families will be a main focus. The district will continue to try to increase the participation of all families, but measuring that will be a new challenge.
“We don’t really have any concrete data that shows what is working and what isn’t,” Conners said.
The first step is for the district to establish baseline levels of participation and set measurable goals. The district previously trained teachers in data driven inquiry, and the changes to the CDEP will put that training into practice, Conners said. The new approach will help monitor the progress of all students and subgroups toward district goals, and in turn help the district identify ways to close its achievement gaps.
Dan Carroll, the district’s director of instructional support services, told the board the three-year plan would help the district address its most critical educational needs. He presented data concerning the district’s achievement gaps to the board.
Carroll said the district does not have major gaps in achievement across racial or ethnic lines, but does see gaps among students with disabilities and economic disadvantages.
“We see concerning wide gaps in achievement between our economically disadvantaged students and our students with disability versus our student population as a whole,” Carroll said.
He said it’s expected that these students will have a lower proficiency rate, but the district is not seeing the type of year-to-year improvement it sees with other students.
“Our students with disabilities and our economically disadvantaged students are just getting further and further behind in terms of reading level,” Carroll said.
He said this was especially concerning due to a “very clear demographic trend” in the district’s student population. In recent years, the number of economically disadvantaged students in the district has surpassed the number of non-economically disadvantaged students.
“That demographic tendency adds a lot of urgency to our needs,” Carroll said.