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Delavan-Darien achievement gaps concerning Latinos

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
— The Delavan-Darien School District must do better.

That’s the message from a new group that hopes to be a liaison between the Spanish-speaking community and the school district.

That’s also the message from Superintendent Wendy Overturf.

At a Monday board meeting, 2009 Delavan-Darien High School graduate Fabian Rebollar asked the board to explain the disparity between Latino and white students in test scores and other measures of academic achievement.

Rebollar and Joab Cano, another 2009 graduate, organized the community group with the assistance of Turtle Creek Elementary School Assistant Principal Ramon Reyes. Parents, community members, alumni and businesses helped spread the word.

“We’re concerned about where the district is going,” said Rebollar, who is now a UW-Whitewater student.

Specifically, the group wants to see more Latino students qualify for advanced placement classes and scholarships.

Perhaps more importantly, the group wants to see the achievement gap between Latino and white students disappear—or at least be substantially reduced.

For example, in grades 3 to 8 and grade 10, the number of students considered English language learners in the advanced or proficient category in reading was 26 to 58 percent lower than their English-speaking classmates.

The district’s ELL students also were consistently below the state average for ELL students in reading.

The obvious answer seems to be that state tests are more difficult for ELL kids.

True, but the district must work harder to reach those students, Overturf said.

“I understand that we have challenges, but we’ve got to do things differently,” Overturf said.

Other schools have ELL challenges, too.

“There are 90-90-90 schools,” Overturf said. “Why can’t we be one of schools?”

A 90-90-90 school has 90 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, 90 percent members of a minority group and 90 percent proficient on state tests.

Overturf believes that her district’s teaching staff is up to the challenge.

The district already has started working on the achievement gap, said Susan Probst, director of special education and student services for the district.

“We did away with the tracking system that was in place at the high school,” Probst said.

The system tracks students—sometimes as early as middle school—into math, science and other classes.

“It meant that those students didn’t have access to higher level courses,” Probst said.

Determining a student’s future in seventh or eighth grade wasn’t helpful.

At the middle school level, Principal Mark Weets has instituted a “behavior support system” that already is reaping results.

Teachers are also looking at and using a new curriculum.

“We need to look at things with a new set of eyes,” Probst said.

That’s part of what Rebollar wants, too.

The new set—or sets—of eyes should come from the Latino community, he said. Their ideas and input could help the district move forward.

Members of the Latino community are working with the district’s strategic planning committee. After the spring school board elections, Rebollar hopes the makeup of the board will change, too.

Last updated: 6:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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