Reports show Lawrence school district treading water in effort to reduce minority achievement gap

Lawrence USD 497 school board

Graphs included in a report shared Monday with the Lawrence school board made visual statements that the district is treading water in its efforts to narrow the achievement gap between minority students and their white peers.

The report included Measurement of Academic Progress assessment test scores from 2014 to 2017 that showed white and Asian students exceeded MAP national mean norms for math and reading for all grade levels tested, universally outperforming their district black, Native American, multiracial and Hispanic counterparts. More troublesome was that the MAP scores of Native Americans, Hispanics and blacks showed little improvement or, as board member Jessica Beeson noted, revealed “stair-step down” trends.

Terry McEwen, district director of assessment, research and accountability, said the graphs of the scores made them appear more dramatic, and added that any increase or decrease of MAP means scores of plus or minus four points did not reflect a significant statistic difference. The report McEwen and Kevin Harrell, district executive director of student support services and special education, presented provided data on MAP test scores given kindergartners through eighth-graders from 2014 through 2017; statistics on in-school and out-of-school suspensions; and Kansas assessment data from 2016 and 2017. Beeson noted there were areas in the report in which minority scores fell by more than a four-point swing. Some examples were:

• A decline in Native American MAP mean reading scores of sixth- through eighth-graders from 221 in 2014 to 215 in 2017.

• 2014 to 2017 slides in sixth- to eighth-grade math scores over from 230 to 220 for Native American students, 231 to 224 for Hispanic students and 234 to 225 in 2014 to 2017 in multi-racial students.

Kansas assessment scores show Lawrence district students generally outperforming state peers as a whole and among minorities. But they also revealed a performance gap between district white and Asian students and their minority peers.

Interim Superintendent Anna Stubblefield said more detailed data from the assessments was shared with building principals as they developed school improvement plans. Also important in keeping minority students engaged was the drive to provide more culturally relevant teaching, she said.

After the meeting, school board president Shannon Kimball said state funding cuts in recent years made it difficult for the district to make academic progress even in areas the board has made a priority. The board would need to keep monitoring assessment scores for progress in the achievement gap, she said.

The board agreed not to rename South Middle School at Monday’s meeting, although board members agreed they would consider such a change at their Dec. 11 meeting. The board will discuss at its Nov. 27 meeting how to form a community committee to recommend a name change.