JCPS’ Envision Equity Summit

JCPS hosted an “Equity Summit” yesterday morning at which it released its first Envision Equity Scorecard.  The Scorecard “scrutinizes system inequities and identifies how demographic data correlate to student outcomes and school culture.”  (The full Scorecard report is here, and a summary is here.  JCPS welcomes feedback here.)

The data in the Scorecard is not surprising, but it is still shocking.  The differences between JCPS schools in levels of poverty, preparedness, discipline and school culture are extreme but not surprising, since these same differences characterize our neighborhoods and our culture at large.

Yet the most important part of the report, to me, is not the picture of inequity that it so effectively paints.  Rather, it is that the report starts to answer the right question, namely:  Given all these sad and unequal statistics, WHAT WORKS?  What steps have schools taken that enable poor children from disadvantaged backgrounds to learn what they need to be ready to excel at life?

Superintendent Hargens, Assistant Superintendent John Marshall, and the many contributors to the report begin to address this question, and that is where the report shines.  It calls out schools that disproportionately serve students in extreme poverty, yet produce disproportionately fine results.  These schools include:

  • Young Elementary, where 94% of the students are on Free & Reduced Lunch, but recent test results surpassed the school’s annual objective by more than 10 points;
  • Fern Creek High School, a priority (fka persistently low achieving) school where the percentage of students who test “College & Career Ready” has grown from 19% in 2010 to 55% in 2013 – and the improvement was spread across all demographic groups;
  • The Phoenix School of Discovery, where improvements in classroom instruction and teacher training are credited with an 80% reduction from 2012 – 13 school years in suspensions, with equivalent reductions for white and black students; and
  • Breckenridge-Franklin Elementary school, an extreme poverty school that produced one of the largest gains in student reading proficiency in JCPS between 2012 and 2013, and made gains with all student groups.

National reform groups often point to the impressive gains made by innovative school operators like the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP, http://www.kipp.org/) as evidence that “we know what works” in urban education if only we have the will to act on this knowledge.  The powerful examples of school success within JCPS suggest that we can find innovation closer to home.

Wherever we uncover effective innovation, however, the challenge remains the same:  We must have the will to act on the discovery and spread the learning.  Dr. Hargens and Dr. Marshall shared both the challenge and some of the solutions with our community yesterday morning.  I call on all who read this to support, help with and push for effective action.