On the evening of Wednesday, November 28, the Staff Development room was abuzz, filled with conversations between students, parents, administrators, and teachers alike. The approximately forty people in attendance were of different backgrounds, but they had at least two things in common: a commitment to the North Point community and to addressing an issue that has plagued American education for generations: the achievement gap.
The Minority Achievement Committee, recently dubbed RECLAIM (Restoring Educational Confidence and Leadership, Achievement, Involvement, and Mentorship), has one ultimate goal: bridging the gap in academic success between African-American males and other students at North Point. The issue was brought to the center of attention by Mr. Mast, an Administrative Assistant and the major driver of RECLAIM. While reviewing student data this past summer, Mast could not help but notice a disparity in data between African-American males and other groups.
However, Mast is quick to note one thing: “Our gap is different from what the nation and state would consider an achievement gap,” he said. All North Point students display similar rates of attendance, receiving diplomas, and passing the High School Assessments. The disparity lies at higher levels of academic achievement, like Advanced Placement enrollment and success, the rate of students making the Honor Roll, and the like. The data does not lie. For example, 32 percent of African-American males at North Point earn a passing score (3 or higher) on AP exams, while 63 percent of white males do. Between the two groups, there is a 243 point difference in SAT scores. At the same time, Mast notes, “It’s not simply just a black and white thing.” 56 percent of African-American females at North Point attend a four-year college. 41 percent of white males and 35 percent of African-American males do the same. Thus, the committee has tightened its focus to African American males.
After identifying the issue, the next step is obvious: finding a solution. By the end of this school year, MAST envisions that RECLAIM will construct a full plan of action to tackle the gap, including “goals, strategies, action steps, and a timeline.” The committee plans to continue into next year and on from there.
At the November 28th meeting, it was obvious that many members of the North Point community, including male students and parents of color, were invested in finding a workable solution. Joshua Looney (’13), who attended the meeting with his father, stated, “We knew from a young age that in order to better ourselves, we needed an education. But a lot of kids don’t see it the same way. We don’t want to let them fall behind.”
Mr. Kirby, one of several teachers in attendance, noted that he sees the gap every day in his classroom. “I joined [the committee] because I would like to be a part of closing it.”
Mast commented that he was especially proud of the participation from seniors and their parents, because they are still invested in finding a solution for up and coming students, even though they themselves will not remain at North Point to see the results. “That’s what’s great to see,” Mast noted with a smile.
In Mast’s eyes, the achievement gap is “one of the hottest topics in education that no one has sound, proven research in knowing how to solve.” But that is not stopping RECLAIM from trying.
The next Minority Achievement Committee meeting is January 30th at 6 pm.