SJ2020: Closing the Achievement Gap

Bottom-up-reform for improving education in Silicon Valley is more effective than top-down-reform efforts, however there is a paucity of examples of the former. In our climate of entrepreneurial know-how one would think there would be a bounty of examples of schools rearranging the apples on the proverbial cart to innovate and improve achievement for all. Yet, school the way we knew it back before the Apple II was introduced is still the norm.

One noteworthy local exception is Downtown College Prep. Jennifer Andaluz and Greg Lippman (now Executive Director of Ace Charter), the teacher-founders of DCP, wanted to create a small college preparatory school where high expectations for achievement in a personalized environment would be the driving force behind its success for a largely underachieving population of Latino youth.

In September 2000, DCP was founded as a charter school by San Jose Unified School District, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of Andaluz and Lippman and the courage of Superintendent Murray and the Board. The charter was approved by a unanimous vote of SJUSD Board of Trustees in 1999.  DCP was the first charter high school in San Jose.

Since then they have grown to a system serving 535 students at two campuses, their most recent expansion DCP Alviso, was authorized as a charter school by Santa Clara Unified School District in 2008.

Now, Executive Director Andaluz and her board of directors are petitioning the Santa Clara County Board of Education for a new DCP Charter in Alum Rock serving grades 6-12. Two months ago the DCP Alum Rock Charter was denied by the East Side Unified Board of Trustees on a vote of 4-0.  The reason cited was that the petition failed to comply with California Education Code 47605(a)(6), which says a district cannot approve a charter to serve pupils in a grade level that is not served by the district. ESUHD does not serve pupils in grades 6-8.

In a new report commissioned by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Chuck Weis for San Jose 2020, the facts are startling. Fifty percent of San Jose’s 120,000 K-12 students are not achieving grade level proficiency based on multiple measures of performance including the California Standards Test. As the report says, “these children will find it difficult to graduate from high school, let alone a four-year college…In fact, the city is producing three dropouts for every ten high school graduates.”

This brings me back to DCP. Using good work done over many years by the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) and Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond’s work on school design and student success, DCP operates from the following premises:

• Students learn best in a culture of high expectations for all.
• Students learn best when they are able to spend extended time with teachers and build multi-year relationships with the same adults. DCP utilizes looping strategies (teachers stay with students for at least two years in the same academic subject) and advisories as integral components of their structure.
• Students learn best when families and communities are involved and feel welcomed at school.
• Students learn best when a school puts “culture before curriculum.”

I praise Mayor Reed and Superintendent Weis for having the courage to gather the community together for a call to action. We must end the morally reprehensible gap between the graduation and achievement rate of whites and Asians and their Latino and African-American peers. It can be done. It is the morally right thing to do. The city of San Jose and the districts and schools within its boundaries working together can achieve the desired results and create a region second to none for more than the microprocessor, I have no doubt.

In the draft report for the SJ2020 initiative it states that there is no simple recipe to ending the achievement gap, however I beg to differ. If one looks at the sequence of practices that we know work at DCP, then we can build all schools with these underpinnings.

October 29 at City Hall San Jose 2020 will be launched. Launch is an appropriate word for in 1962 very few thought we would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In San Jose 2020 we are giving ourselves more time to reach a much easier goal, to eliminate the achievement gap by 2020.

A couple of caveats: We will fail without a collectively bargained performance pay model that will compensate 10 percent of the top teachers at salaries that equal their superintendents (but they must work a full year, at least 225 days); and we must find ways to recruit and retain the best teachers for Silicon Valley. It will help immeasurable if we recruit and retain those teachers who share the culture of most of our students. Si Se Puede, San Jose.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

37 Comments

  1. Joseph,

    You continue to dance around the prime cause of our education dilemma. To amplify upon your statement about a Moon landing, in 1962, very few thought our schools would be filled with students who speak not a word of English.

    • Greg,

      I agree with you that maybe very few thought our schools would be filled with ESL students, but that is not an excuse to do nothing.  I think that it is unfair, and unproductive to point the finger at immigration and say that if immigration policies were fixed, our education dilemma would go away.  Is this your argument?

      We all have to accept and take pride in the fact that the U.S. is a multicultural society.  We could all moan and complain that people don’t speak English in this country, but if we teach them properly, they will become productive members of our society. 

      I don’t see immigration as the cause of our Education problem; I see the cause as a lack of aid to minorities.  If we accept minorities as the Americans that they are and close the achievement gap within their communities, we’ll be rewarded with a better America in the future. 

      Kirk

  2. It is unfortunate ESUHD denied the DCP Alum Rock Charter on small technical reasons. Shouldn’t the focus be on minimizing the achievement gap and providing our students with the best we can give, rather than abiding by district rules? The statistics definitely ARE shocking. 50 percent is not the same as 20 percent or 30 percent. 50 percent is HALF. Half of San Jose’s students are not performing at grade-level…That is just a bit alarming.

    The premises on which DCP operate on are wonderful. I agree families and communities should be involved. And I very much agree students learn best when they can build multi-year relationships with their teachers. It eliminates the time period required each year to re-build trust between student and teacher and to adjust to new environments, classroom rules, and teaching and student learning styles. There is already not enough time in a year to provide instruction to our students. If we can eliminate those factors, more time can be allowed for teachers to provide the best for their students.

    I’d very much like to think elimination of the achievement gap is possible. Though I feel everyone’s focus and priorities must first be in the right place.

  3. I completely agree with with you. But, how do we find good teachers? What do you have in mind? Your articles talk about issues that need to change but how do we do it? What would you do? It would be interesting for you to write an article on the process of finding good teachers. 
    I found the following statement interesting “Students learn best when a school puts “culture before curriculum.” I had no idea that students learn best this way. I know that culture is important but I had no clue about the the culture coming first.

    • I agree that it would be nice to have more specifics about how to better our current educational system.  Most people would agree that the system is just not working.  I agree that DCP seems like a good model and maybe one that should be emulated.  But I cannot understand why there are so few schools like it in the area.  In the credential program at San Jose State we learn about many of the methods DCP uses, such as building relationships, the importance of having high expectations and the involvement of family and community.  So, the fact that there is a lack of good teachers is alarming.  One would think that because California’s credentialing process is so much more intense than in other states, we would have good teachers.  It truly is horrifying to know that so many students are not achieving grade level proficiency.  I hope that whatever is done to improve our situation happens soon.  It is not right for our educational system to be failing our students.

  4. I agree with what DCP has done to help students succeed.  We need more schools like that around that are devoted to helping students and building lasting relationships.

  5. The notion that schools have their own cultures is often lost on those who see schools as being smaller parts of a monolithic system.  But each school has its own identity.  The characteristics of each school relies heavily on the tone set by its leadership structure.  In this regard, important change can come from a top-down approach. 
      Dr. Douglas Reeves, founder of the Center for Performance Assessment,(http://www.leadandlearn.com) makes some important points about how important it is for school’s leadership to set a tone for others to follow.  He stresses four essentials a school’s leadership must address:

    First, define what you will not change.
    (Don’t fix what isn’t broken)

    Second, recognize the importance of actions.
    (Actions speak louder than words)

    Third, use the right change tools for your school or district. (from the article):

        “Christensen, Marx, and Stevenson (2006) differentiate culture tools, such as rituals and traditions; power tools, such as threats and coercion; management tools, such as training, procedures, and measurement systems; and leadership tools, such as role modeling and vision. Leaders must choose the appropriate change tools on the basis of a combination of factors, including the extent to which staff members agree on what they want and how to get there.”

    Fourth, be willing to do the heavy lifting.
    (Lead by example)

    Every school, like every student, is unique.  Schools are malleable, and with the right leadership, can create a culture where learning and growth excels.

    • Chris,
      You make a great point.  A huge part of a school’s success depends on its principal.  The principal sets the tone and culture of the school.  Is it a happy, friendly, respectful place?  Does the principal provide support for the teachers?  Is he/she open to new ideas, available, approachable? 
      Some part of the initiative should focus on recruiting and retaining effective leadership.

  6. I look forward to attending SJSU2020 & hearing more about this initiative.  As stated, 50% of SJ’s K-12 student are not at grade level proficiency.  It is alarming, especially being in the process of becoming an elementary/middle school teacher.  There needs to be some sort of change so that we provide all students with the same opportunities to learn to their full potential.

  7. A nicely reasoned post, starting with a listing of the problems in the current system that are easily agreed by all as being troublesome.  The columnist then builds to a support for an enterprise solution centered around the DCP experience.

    Before I accept that DCP is the model we need to use to save public education in SCC, I’d like to know more about some of the premises.  I’d like to know what the study finding cited means when it says “Students learn best when a school puts ‘culture before curriculum.’”

    I’d also like to see some valid statistical research that tracks cohorts of DCP students over time, and compares they’re performance to other mainstream students.

    Enough of the critical and demanding stuff, let’s get on to the praise.  I had a good High School experience, with mentoring, a competitive culture that encouraged achievement, but thanks to a “Laissez-faire” attitude from my parents who wanted but didn’t demand that I excel, I felt safe to pursue things that DID NOT improve my acceptance chances for a UC or Ivy League school.  Had a great time, got a real good education, made some good friends, and went on to college on my terms.

    Having smaller cohorts of students, activities that promote inclusion and expression and continuity through multiple years of curriculum sounds great.  Let’s try some of this in mainstream schools.  I am wary of performance pressures where everyone needs to be tracked for some stupid AP test that somehow sets them on a pedestal for high achievement.  The mediocrity of these metrics is reflected in the failure of our education system from K-14 on up to the hallowed halls of Berkeley and UCLA.  We play a game to generate decimals on a GPA and tassles on a cap without regard for real learning or ability to excel in a dynamic society.

    I don’t believe in voluntary or involuntary segregation, even if it promotes achievement.  We’re neither melting pot nor salad bowl (multi-minority CAL) but we continue to look at achievements with simple metrics like SAT and GPA.  I’d love to see the trades brought back into the curriculum with carpentry, electrician and plumbing offered along side web design and digital photography.  The grade inflation of our hyper-competitive culture now has led to degree inflation where a HS Diploma, AA degree, BA/BS and even a Masters are now expected to make it into candidate pools.  I think its enough if we keep students engaged through HS and drop delinquency (criminal justice) involvement and increase vocational and advanced educational attainments. 

    An old friend relates how his public school (Chicago, 1930’s) had everyone of all abilities combined into large classes.  The teacher told the students that those of you who are quick to grasp the material will be tutoring those who need extra help.  He said it engaged the one’s who would have gotten bored and helped everyone advance together.  The school probably wouldn’t be setting records for SAT scores, but it did create a culture that kept more students enrolled and in class through graduation than some of our “achievement at any costs” schools that track and segregate high and low achievers early and often.

    • I agree with you that we need more and better vocational education.

      But remember that voc ed itself is a form of “voluntary segregation”, as you put it.  We don’t randomly assign students to metal shop, nor should we.

      Vocational education is “segregation”, but does not deserve so negative a term.  It looks at a group, thinks about their needs, and designs classes with the intent of creating something appealing to that subgroup.  It’s not a bad thing.

  8. I am excited by the prospect of San Jose 2020 and the notion of educational reform. It is imperative that we challenge our current education system, as clearly the achievement gap is a strong indication that something is not working. I adamantly agree with the premise that “students learn best in a culture of high expectations for all.” This means holding high expectations for both students and teachers. Students deserve teachers who continually push them to reach new academic heights and truly believe in their abilities to learn. Teachers, similarly, deserve a strong support system. Many schools have implemented Professional Learning Communities. The goal of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is for teachers to work together in an effort to enhance their effectiveness. PLCs have a great premise, yet sadly, I’ve found that they are often superficial at best. Teachers should not be secluded in their classrooms. Instead, they should have ample opportunities to share ideas and work with others towards a common goal of helping students learn and develop.

  9. These are all great ideas….! Save some for the presentation tomorrow!!! :0) We need to do something about the achievement gap, and it seems the SJ2020 is on the right track…

  10. I am really looking for to hear more about SJ2020. It seems as though our this dilemma is finally getting the attention it needs! The achievement gap is something that will only get worse if not taken care of now. Hopefully in the presentation tomorrow we can all take something from it and implement that into our future classroom.

    • I definitely agree.  It is about time, the achievement gap will only grow unless we take action now! SJ2020 seems to be taking the step in the right direction.  It will be very interesting to hear more about it!

  11. • Students learn best in a culture of high expectations for all.

    I would hope that all teachers not just those at charter schools hold high expectations for their students no matter the circumstance. I know teacher who go above and beyond their “duties” to help children succeed in any situation. I know it’s cliché but children are out future. One day they will be the doctors, lawyers, police officers, etc taking care of our society. Wouldn’t we want the best for them?

    • Students learn best when they are able to spend extended time with teachers and build multi-year relationships with the same adults. DCP utilizes looping strategies (teachers stay with students for at least two years in the same academic subject) and advisories as integral components of their structure.

    Looping is a wonderful idea and I wish more schools would consider it. The teachers I’ve talked to about looping do not want to put in the extra time to learn a new grade curriculum. I find this to be a sad concept because in the end it would help everyone. Teachers should know the curriculum from the grade behind them as well above them. This way they know what their class should know before they come to them and what they will learn in the year to come. Looping is truly amazing when teachers give it all they’ve got!

    • Students learn best when families and communities are involved and feel welcomed at school.

    I currently student teach and a charter school and last semester I was at a Title I school. I see a HUGE difference and the community and family involvement and I strongly believe this does contribute to student learning and success.

    • Students learn best when a school puts “culture before curriculum.”

    This statement I have not had much experience with. I sadly have only witnessed curriculum being put before culture. I would love to see what this looks like at a school setting.

  12. All of these premises on which the DCP operates reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  We must make sure that the basic needs of feeling welcomed and safe are essential to learning.  THis means acknowledging culture and making it apart of the classroom and school environments.  But unfortunately, it seems we have thrown culture and building relationships (another important factor) out the window and these students are too scared, anxious and confused to even understand what we are doing.  There are a lot of things that need to change if we want to close the achievement gap, but I think that the DCP’s principles are right on track and are definitely the best place to start to make that desired change.  If we can change the environment with good teachers who care and can build relationships with students and highlight the importance culture, the learning will come and students will succeed.

  13. I have been thinking about working in a charter school and this just sealed the deal for me. I think another way to improve education would be a mentor system for new teachers. I think that many times teachers are thrown into their first year, and are not prepared. If there were teacher mentor programs it would ease the transition, and new teachers would be able to see what a successful classroom looks like. I am trying to find a school with a program like this, but they are hard to find. I really wonder why this is because it seems so obvious to me that this would be a great addition to any program. I also think that teacher retention would rise in schools that did programs like this. I do not agree that decreasing the achievement gap is easier then putting a man on the moon. Putting a man on the moon took a few (relative to the total amount of students in the nation) very educated and motivated people, where decreasing the achievement gap is going to take government and teachers and parents and students all to be motivated toward the same cause. It is so much harder to work with a large group of different minded people. There will always be two or more sides, and I am sure that these sides can find research to back up what they think is the best way to structure our school system. I think as a teacher my main goal is going to be to do my best in my own classroom, and to help other teachers in my school do their best.

  14. The achievement gap is an obvious problem, but one that is hard to fix because it means we need to change the way education in our area is working. We need to have great teachers in the struggling schools, which is a problem because they will get paid less working in those schools, and we need to see culture before curriculum. I think the culture before curriculum is a great point, because we should be embracing the multiple cultures in our area and creative lessons around that. We need to be able to work with EL students in the best way possible as well. This is easier to say than do. I for one and not quite sure how to achieve these things in order to close the achievement gap, but I hope we can figure it out.

    • I agree with this! I think the gap is something that needs to befixed, but I also know that to do so it will require change. CHange is not the easiest thing to gain these days because people are not a fan of change. I believe the young and willing will be the candidates of change because they want nothing but change. Allowing cultures to be involved and allowing different lesson plans are key and enjoyable for students. Gaining the interest of the students will be the first step, the next step is keeping their interest in learning and gaining knowledge to close this gap.

  15. This article causes me to reflect on the inadequacies present in our education system, but, at the same time, inspires hope that improvements can be made that will generate success for all students.  As the city of San Jose explores the various strategies and programs available in the community at this time, I expect that they will review and retain those programs and schools that boast high achievement rates and will suspend or reform those that are not producing the desired results.

    I strongly concur with Mr. DiSalvo that students should be given high expectations, spend a few academic years (if appropriate) with the same classroom teacher, and enjoy a supportive home and community.  I do, however, question one of the ideas expounded.  Placing culture before curriculum could seem like a positive academic practice, but it could also be disagreeable to many citizens of the U.S.  Let me clarify.  Recognizing a child’s deficiency in linguistic knowledge and scaffolding the content is very useful to a student and, in general, a wonderful teaching technique.  Trying to understand and welcome some cultural norms or celebrations fosters a more convivial classroom and school.  Creating positive interaction between a student’s parents and the teacher will instill in them the importance of their child’s education.  However, if placing culture before curriculum signifies that important historical and cultural traditions of the U.S. are to be eliminated with the advent of this strategy, I would not see cultural understanding there.  If this strategy includes hiring high numbers of teachers that share these children’s cultures solely based on this factor, I believe that it would create more segregation and encourage an unfair hiring process.  I do not say this because it would affect me.  Despite the fact that I am Hispanic and speak Spanish, does not mean a more qualified individual should be passed over because of culture and language ability.

    Finally, I am aware that myriad improvements can and should be made in teachers’ instruction and the education system as a whole.  In spite of this, I do strongly believe that no amount of legislation, city intervention, or new curriculum can compensate fully for parents and caregivers that do not support their children and that do not demonstrate high expectations.  A hefty portion of the responsibility will always reside with parents due to the fact that they have the ability to inspire their children and provide them with opportunities for personal improvement.

  16. The focus on standardized tests are creating a generation of test takers. They are less likely to think abstractly or critically about a topic. I agree about high expectations helping students achieve better. While subbing I noticed that students do meet your expectations and like it. The aids in the class wanted to go easy on expectations for “ed” students. I disagreed silently and help high expectaions and got good results! One comment on performance pay, which I agree with but have concerns about after subbing, man students are way way way behind!!! The teachers of middle school,until they have students that have started school under the performance pay system will have a very difficult time with the system. but Ithink its a great idea.

    • I really agree with your point about creating a generation of test takers. I think we have really gone in the wrong direction in education with standarized testing. Test scores have way too much impact on students’ lives and self-esteems.  Alfie Kuhn writes about the effects of overemphasizing achievement has on students; they become really afraid of “failing”, they get turned off from learning, they stick with easy material and so on. I know in this society we will probably never do away with grades even though they are ridiculous, but we can do away with overemphasizing their importance.  Personally, I would like to see narrative evaluations replace grades, but I think people that lack a sound sense of the world would get way too bent out of shape and charge that narrative evaluations are too subjective.

  17. I’m surprised that San Jose produces three in ten dropouts- it’s a depressing statistic.  San Jose is one of the best cities in the U.S. to live, yet we are forgetting about the importance of quality education.  The DCP’s goals/premises for education seem to be common sense goals every school should be implementing or working towards.  Every point except for culture before curriculum I was aware of and believe in.

  18. I agree with you Mr. Di Salvo, “Si se puede”. Teacher’s need the support of the schools and a better pay, as well as the schools need teachers that have that positive attitude to believe that all their student’s can succeeded. I was really surprise to hear that there are schools out there like DCP that are making the different for many students. I can wait to hear what the SJ2020 has to propose.

  19. “Students learn best in a culture of high expectations for all”.  That is such a true statement.  I believe so much in the self-fulfilling prophecy where there is a connection between belief and behavior.  As a teacher I feel that students at a young age are not encouraged to finish high school and go to college.  I even had a parent say that none of her family went to college and that her son probably won’t either.  I was quite surprised.  It is not only charter schools that can promote a higher education.  I also feel that there is not enough resources available to parents, for example information about scholarships and financial aid.  We have to instill a new mindset about a higher education!

  20. It’s amazing that a school district, such as ESUD, would deny their students the opportunity to be academically successful.  What’s more frustrating is the fact that the solution is in front of everyone’s face, however, people continue to act clueless.  If DCP’s model of educating students work, why are so many people still seraching for new methods?

  21. • Students learn best in a culture of high expectations for all.
    • Students learn best when they are able to spend extended time with teachers and build multi-year relationships with the same adults. DCP utilizes looping strategies (teachers stay with students for at least two years in the same academic subject) and advisories as integral components of their structure.
    • Students learn best when families and communities are involved and feel welcomed at school.
    • Students learn best when a school puts “culture before curriculum.”

    I agree with all of these bullet points, and think that we should have high expectations for students from all cultural/socioeconomic backgrounds.  Schooling should be a group effort from the students, teachers, and parents, and the entire community should encourage learning, self-improvement, and personal achievement, including expecting children to go to college and finish their education.  Education seems to be a priority in everyone’s mind, but it is acting on these opinions, not just thinking them, that will make a difference.

  22. I agree with the school design and student success, DCP operates on.  Funny enough, this was a school specially design with those elements in mind.  Shouldnt all school operate that way?

  23. I think for the achievement gap to stand any chance of shrinking, we need to prioritize getting all kids on the same page: reading at grade level, and through immersion English courses, offered to both our students as well as their parents. If we support ELs in both learning their language while also celebrating their culture, I think everyone would achieve success.

  24. DiSalvo writes:
    “It will help immeasurabl[y] if we recruit and retain those teachers who share the culture of most of our students.”

    On the surface, this idea sounds good and yet something bothers me about it. Do you mean that Hispanic students should have Hispanic teachers? Following that thought, White students should have White teachers?

    • If you actually selected teachers based on culture and ethnicity, you would hurt minority students.

      If you want to have teachers who actually know their subjects, then those math and science teachers took a lot of math and science in college.

      Upper division college math and science classes have a lot of white and Asian faces.  At top schools, it is at at least 90%.

      Do you want 90% of the most knowledgeable teachers to be reserved for white and Asian districts?  This is what would happen if you chose teachers by ethnicity/culture.

  25. Once again, playing the absurdist Devil’s Advocate or a bigot, take your pick, what if Latino and African-American “culture before curriculum” does not place as high a value on Standardized Testing as does White and Asian culture? The absurd part is that generalizations don’t work, but I’m just throwing that out there for the random thought of the day.

    Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest I can praise the City of San Jose for some of it’s innovation and leadership, including Mayor Reed. Holding a forum like SJ2020 as well as a number of other community-based town meetings seems like progress, as long as people participate and the leadership does something with the information. One hope that I have, which I know will not happen, is that such innovations like the city’s planned solar energy plant near Alviso be a municipal project rather than a privatized one. Oh well, I guess we’re not ready for socialized programs in this country yet. The downtrodden are not quite ready…

    Regardless, there are a couple good examples out there operating successfully. Some of the models you mention seem sustainable. One that comes to mind is Renaissance Academy in the Alum Rock Union School District. Academic standards are high at this middle school, where students and parents both must sign a “contract” to commit to the standards of the school, including 30 hours of community service per semester for each student and 30 hours of volunteer time for a participating parent. This is something like the way a parent-teacher coop for preschool works, and apparently this model is successful.

    Joe, you state that, “If one looks at the sequence of practices that we know work at DCP, then we can build all schools with these underpinnings.” What are the rudiments of this success? Surely you can spare us a simple sentence towards this end?

    How does rewarding 10 percent of teachers with performance pay benefit students and teachers in general? This appears to be a drop in the hat. No matter how hard teachers compete against each other for that mean little 10 percent it does not promise anything, just that a few will benefit rather than the whole. Very disappointing outlook. I do not support those statistics.

  26. It is interesting that you use a charter school as an example for success in eliminating the achievement gap.  Charter schools are a dicey concept; they operate with public funding, but are only held to their charter.  Charter schools have proven to be successful, but they inevitably have an edge up.  The parents of charter students have “figured out” the system and gained their student “admission to the pseudo public school.  I am sure there is a public (non-charter) school that has been successful in closing the achievement gap and most likely they have a mission/premise that is similar to DCP.  It is important that public schools take it upon themselves to create a school community that welcomes family, holds high expectations for their students (and families), and extend the hours we spend learning with one another.

  27. In a Psychology of Gender course in Undergrad we talked about the idea of single-sex classrooms and single-sex schools. We looked over the data and the theory and read several studies that critically analyzed single-sex schools. What those studies found was that students in these classrooms were more successful than their peers in mixed-gender classrooms. There were long waitlists because these schools were so successful in places like the Bronx. However, the reason that kids in single-sex schools (public and private) succeeded was because the schools were opt-in. Parents had to be invested enough in their child’s education and future to apply to one of these schools. Uninvolved parents don’t put their children on waitlists. Based on this information, I believe that much of DCP’s success might be based on parent involvement. Without good teachers the school would quickly fail, so that clearly plays some part. However, in terms of what we need to do to eliminate the achievement gap, the biggest challenge is getting success to start at home. Parents need to demand success and provide their students with the tools to achieve it. This is perhaps not something that the school board has the power to change. I don’t know how we as a county change the parent approach, but it seems to be desperately important that we do.

    • I completely agree with you, Meg. Education starts in the home and parents should be responsible for continuing education from school and supporting it at home. Teachers can only do so much with their students in the time that they have. Parents are there with their children for life. They are the constant figures in their lives. More parents need to be aware of the effect that they have on their children’s lives, actions, and choices. They need to work with teachers and get involved with what is going on with their child at school. I think eliminating the achievement gap is possible with parents and teachers working together.

  28. • Students learn best when families and communities are involved and feel welcomed at school.
    • Students learn best when a school puts “culture before curriculum.”

    These two premises of the DCP model really stood out for me because you don’t hear of them too often. I believe one of the reasons it is working especially in Downtown College Prep is because the school is made up of a large population of latino youth and for latino culture, culture and family is a very important aspect of life. Welcoming their families and communities into their education is such a powerful tool not only for the students but also for their parents. It also probably invokes the parents to get more involved with their child’s education by learning more about what their children are doing in school and realizing that education is what will help their kids get ahead in life. It truly is all about building relationships with your students and trying to reach out to them to help them to succeed, in any which way you can. Obviously, this school found the way to reach to their students!