Like many school districts in Utah and nationwide, Davis District has gaps in achievement between its white and minority students.
In Davis, higher percentages of white students scored as proficient on state language arts, math and science tests than other ethnic groups, in some cases by as much as 29 percentage points, in the past school year. Statewide, Latinos, Utah's largest minority group, trailed white students by 20 to 33 percentage points in math, science and language arts.
Davis is hoping to turn its numbers around, partly by raising awareness with an event for parents and community members on Wednesday. The event, "A Parent Equity Night: Bridging the Achievement Gap" will highlight ways parents and community members can become more involved.
Speakers will include Calvary Baptist Church Pastor France Davis; retired educator and community activist Robert "Archie" Archuleta; and Suzanne Cottrell, district assessment, research and evaluation supervisor.
Davis said he'll talk about how parents, educators and community members can better reach across cultural and economic lines to help all types of children.
"I think it's a major problem," Davis said of the achievement gap, "that we pretty much write off certain categories of people in terms of education and achievement."
Archuleta said he'll speak about ways parents, community members and educators can become more involved children's educations to help an already "strapped school system." He said he'll also address the idea that there's no easy answer to the achievement gap.
"It's a rather complex idea that needs to be addressed from a variety of angles," Archuleta said, "but the one thing we do know is children whose parents are involved in school seem to do better."
David Lovato, a Davis school board member, said it's important to help parents understand the roles they can play in helping to close such gaps, such as introducing their kids to a wide range of vocabulary at home before they begin school.
Experts have pointed to a number of possible reasons to explain why some minority groups seem to fall behind, including poverty, parents' education levels and/or lack of familiarity with the school system, stereotyping in schools, language barriers.
Jackie Thompson said the Davis District has already been working to help close those gaps through a number of programs, including Latinos in Action, MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement), and an American Indian education program. She also said most of the district's teachers have also been trained in how to teach kids learning English.
"We know that we've come a ways," said Thompson, director of Davis' educational equity department, "but we've got a long ways to go in closing that gap."
Achievement gap event in Davis School District
The Davis District Parent Equity Committee will hold an event for parents and community members Wednesday about how to help bridge the achievement gaps between students of different ethnicities. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Northridge High School auditorium in Layton. Community members from Davis, Salt Lake and Weber counties are invited to attend.