During a three-hour presentation, James, accompanied by a Loyola University-Maryland colleague anda team of researchers, presented a detailed analysis of students' academic and social experiences throughout their WHS careers along with a group of inter-related problems contributing to and potential solutions for Windsor's achievement gap — the performance disprity between WIndsor's white students and students of color.
Among those inter-related problems identified were tracking ( the practice of grouping students based on estimated potential), inequitable access to high-level classes, a lack of rigor in lower academic tracks, social elements that create and promote a "cycle of mediocrity," and disproportionate representation of ethnic and gender groups in high-level classes.
Based on interviews with a reported 20 percent of the Windsor High School community, an analysis of student participation in high-level courses, success rates in those classes and social factors contributing to both educator and student mediocrity, James concluded if underperforming students are challenged, they will succeed and the schievement gap will shrink. Furthermore, an increase of challenging coursework, and opportunity to participate in such coursework, will improve scores of white students and the overall academic profile of Windsor High School, James said.
For each additional honors course students take, the achievement gap will shrink, on an individual basis, by 9.62 points on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), the Excellence and Equity Review results predict.
The recommendations outlined in the study are based on the school district's non-deiscrimination instruction program within its affirmative action policy, which states, "The school district pledges itself to avoid any discriminatory actions, and instead seeks to foster good human and educational relations which will help to attain... Equal opportunity for all students to participate in the total program of the schools."
Recommendations outlined in the study include:
- Developing a community-school equal opportunity commission charged with developing a plan to "exlicitly address the barriers to opportunity structured within WHS;
- Studying development needs of student race and gender subgroups;
- Providing ongoing professional development for the board of education, administration, teachers and staff in "contemporary theories and practices in multicultural education by discipline;
- Detailing a process for eliminating and replacing factors contributing to inequtities;
- and devloping a plan for engaging "diverse parents in advocacy for their children.
Editor's Note: Given the scope and complexity of the results released Thursday, Windsor Patch finds it most appropriate to examine the presented causes of the education gap (i.e., tracking, modern racism, the cycle of mediocrity, course quality and course availability) in a series of upcoming articles.