Further clarity on African American graduation rates

BY DR. RICARDO DAVIS, President, COQEBS

I thank Dr. Evans on behalf of Dr. Grego for his rigorous defense of my earlier op-ed in response to the superintendent’s excitement at the increasing graduation rates for black students in Pinellas County.  I also invite Dr. Evans to publish with equal vigor to the community, the data sets mentioned below.

Blame it on the state?  The fact that the state allows for the categories does not have anything to do with the district’s ability, or lack thereof, to ensure that black students receive an equal quality education when compared to non-blacks in the Pinellas County School system.  How do you explain the decreasing trend in black graduates in the W06 category, and the increasing trend in WFW and WFT categories in the past five years at Gibbs High School?

Intense preparation for the ACT or SAT is not the same as providing a quality education.  If the alternate assessment category is, in fact, an equivalent method of showing mastery, it should be reflected in the number of students performing on-grade level in reading and math data, between black and non-black students, in the diploma categories W06 (Standard Diploma), versus the WFT (Standard Diploma with Alternate Assessment) and the WFW (Standard Diploma with ESE waiver) for the years 2010 through 2015.  This mastery you speak of should also be reflected in the ACT and SAT scores by race (black vs. non-black), and in the academic performance of these students when they leave the Pinellas County school system.

The four statements from students simply reflect the results of the district’s attempt to portray both students and teachers as victimized by the community, in light of negative press, and an uncomfortable discourse on the question of whether black students are receiving an equal quality of education in Pinellas County.  For example, in contrast to the four students’ statements, how many graduated in the past five years using the alternate assessment method?  What proportion of these graduates from Gibbs in the past five years required remediation at the freshman level at St. Petersburg College or University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (by race)?

Regarding the WFW (ESE Waivers) category, it is always interesting that the district has chosen to represent the data reflecting decreasing aggregate number of black vs. non-black students in this category.  This method of data presentation does not provide a sample size of each group reflecting the rate of representation in the EBD category between black and non-black students.  It is yet another example of the lack of transparency in presenting information to the public (and the plaintiff’s representatives).  This method of presenting data would also show the differences in the rate of classification if any, (the GAP) between black and non-black students classified as EBD’s.

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