116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As the gap in test scores continues to increase for some student demographics, the Cedar Rapids Community School District is committing to equity work it believes will improve teaching and learning outcomes.
The district has a goal to reduce gaps in reading and math scores across all student demographic groups by 20 percent, especially for students of color, English language learners, students with Individualized Education Plans (created for special education students), and students on free and reduced lunch plans, an indicator of low-income families.
The gap has grown this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the derecho, Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said during a school board meeting this week.
Though it wasn’t discussed at this meeting, the district is considering setting aside federal pandemic money to provide summer school or after-school learning opportunities for students who experienced learning loss during the pandemic.
On the winter FAST Assessment tests taken by elementary students:
- African American students scored 27 points lower in math and 24 points lower in reading than their white peers.
- English language learners scored 29 points lower in math and 31 points lower in reading than their peers who are not English language learners.
- Students with Individualized Education Plans scored 22 points lower in math and 38 points lower in reading than their peers without those plans.
On the iReady Assessment tests taken by middle school students this winter:
- African American students scored 28 points lower in math and 27 points lower in reading than their white peers.
- English language learners scored 28 points lower in math and 30 points lower in reading than their peers who are not English language learners.
- And students on Individual Education Plans scored 24 points lower in math and 32 points lower in reading than their peers without those plans.
On the MAP Assessment tests taken by high school students this winter:
- African American students scored 45 points lower in math and 36 points lower in reading than their white peers.
- English language learners scored 58 points lower in math and 63 points lower in reading than their peers who are not English language learners.
- And students with Individual Education Plans scored 56 points lower in math and 54 points lower in reading than their peers without those plans.
Teachers in the district are continuing family engagement calls, touching base with students’ parent or guardian once a month for at least 15 minutes — a “partnership” to help students achieve their academic goals, Kooiker said.
Kooiker said the district is taking “intentional steps” to close the gap for students, with a district equity team meeting biweekly to discuss data and solutions.
The district also is taking is launching an employees of color resource group, based off feedback it received from employees of color.
The district is continuing to implement the Intercultural Developmental Inventory, which assesses the intercultural competence of a school and individual, and helps them work toward inclusion goals. Also, teachers and staff will continue to be offered professional development opportunities and resources to them learn about diversity and be more inclusive.
The district hopes over the next three years outcomes of the district equity team and employees of color resource group will include increasing employee satisfaction and retention; increased staff diversity; increased student enrollment; acceptance of the Intercultural Developmental Inventory; and 90 percent of staff who believe equity work is important.
School board member Cindy Garlock suggested engaging the Advocates for Social Justice, a Cedar Rapids activist group that came out of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, in this work.
“They’ve had a very strong pulse on the community, issues in the community, and I think they would be a great addition,” Garlock said.
Finally, the district has joined an American Association of School Administrators Equity Cohort.
Every month, district officials participate in a webinar with 21 other school districts across the United States to learn how to provide more equitable education.
“Oftentimes school districts get trapped into studying the problem of equity and do little action,” said Kent Ryan, the district’s director of culture and climate transformation. “We thought it was important to start acting and create an employees of color resource group to provide support for them and the work they do in our district.”
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