don't know exactly what it is you do, but they say you're doing
it well," Michael Latta, of Y.T.M.B.A. Research, a corporate
research firm based in Brandywine Hundred, told the board.
another matter at its meeting on Mar. 22, the board was informed
that a group of teachers have initiated an effort to close the
'achievement gap' between white and Asian students and black and
Hispanic students and are recruiting their colleagues to
participate in it.
survey was commissioned by the board as part of a
self-evaluation. It cost $3,000 and consisted of 70 telephone
interviews with civic association officers and three group
discussions with 10 'involved' parents, 12 'typical' parents and
eight people identified as business and community leaders. The
people contacted were identified by administrators at both the
district office and school level.
and discussions revolved around the five goals stated in the
long-range strategic plan adopted in 2002. Participants were
asked to compare the present board with previous boards and
boards in other districts. To the extent that was possible, the
board as presently constituted came out ahead, Latta said.
the most pronounced finding was that people in the selected
categories, who might be assumed to be more aware of public
events, were largely unaware of the plan and those who knew
there was such a plan were hazy on what it contains. As would be
expected, he said, parents who are involved in one or more
activities, mostly at the school level, are more aware than
those who are not and business and community leaders are the
of the small sample, the survey findings are "representative of
the district as a whole, but cannot be [statistically] projected
to the district population at large," according to an executive
summary of the report distributed at the meeting. The final
report is not yet finished, Latta said.
the survey indicated that the board and district are not doing
an effective job of communicating information to the public. The
district newsletter, Brandywine Review, which is sent by mail to
all residential addresses, is not widely read and "very few
people go the the [district's] Web site for information, he
president Nancy Doorey confirmed that, noting that friends tell
her they set aside their copy of the Brandywine Review,
"intending to read it when they have time, but never get back to
significant public involvement in school affairs is to some
extent a result, Latta said. "This is a public meeting and where
is the community?" That had reference to sparse attendance at
the school board meeting. Only about 25 people had shown up and
several of those were district employees. By the time Latta made
his presentation, nearly half of the attenders, who had come to
witness the monthly recognition ceremony or had interest in
matters presented earlier in the session, had drifted away.
participants, Latta noted, displayed confusion about the federal
No Child Left Behind Act and the Delaware State Testing Program
and their effects upon the district. They also do not understand
what the International Baccalaureate Program, an academically
rigorous curriculum being introduced to selected students at
Mount Pleasant High, is, he said.
concerns expressed by participants included the state's
three-tier high school diploma system, classroom discipline, the
amount of testing to which students are subjected, and lack of
Specifically, he said that "even though the board is [perceived
to be] fiscally responsible, the public would like to know how
and where the money is spent." Also, he added, "there is a
general feeling that parent 'input' is not taken seriously and
that board meetings are not a place for discussion prior to a
decision, but are a requirement where decisions already made are
rank board and district performance with academic scores, almost
half of the civic association officers polled by telephone gave
them a 'B'. 'Involved' parents ranked them between a 'B+' and an
'A' while about three-fourth of the 'typical' parents assigned
them a 'C'. Half of the business and community leaders group
came up with a 'B'.
'achievement gap' initiative grew out of attendance by five
teachers and board vice president Joseph Brumskill at a
conference in New Orleans where the national problem of lagging
performance by students from racial and ethnic minorities and
lower economic situations was addressed.
back with the feeling that perhaps we [teachers] are
perpetuating what's going on," Cordie Greenlea, told the board.
One thing that has to be dealt with, she added, is a tendency
toward "racial predictability." That is defined as ascribing
lower expectations to students on the basis of their race.
Simpson said that the group has so far enlisted 25 other
teachers in four schools who have agreed to participate in a
series of meetings between now and the end of the academic year
to discuss ways to avoid and counter stereotyping. "We want to
come up with strategies [because] some teachers don't know how
to so that," she said.
sessions will consist of "courageous conversations" which
Greenlea said "will look at where we are failing our children."
teachers in the core group are Otis Blackburn, Joe Brown and