For weeks this fall and winter, Pedro Noguera and his team toured campuses in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district. They interviewed educators, met with administrators and held student focus groups, all the while learning about issues regarding equity and access.
Well, now what?
Noguera, who was hired by SMMUSD to address longstanding academic achievement gaps and other race-related matters, will present his findings to the local Board of Education during a special meeting Thursday afternoon in the Santa Monica High School cafeteria.
It’s the next step in what district officials hope is the eventual formulation of an action plan to address glaring disparities in success between African-American and Latino students and their peers.
“The team visited each school in the district and gathered data to examine trends across the district so that they can make school-specific and districtwide recommendations,” a district report reads.
Few disagree that the district has struggled to address achievement gaps that persist along racial and socioeconomic lines. The gulfs in SMMUSD were clear on recently implemented state tests, figures show.
In English, pass rates ranged from 45 percent for African-American students and 48 percent for Hispanic students to 78 percent for white students and 83 percent for Asians. Similarly, just 30 percent of black test-takers in the district and 33 percent of Latino students met or exceeded standards in math, while white and Asian students’ rates stood at 69 percent and 77 percent, respectively.
Noguera’s consultancy is being paid $185,000 to assess the district’s current strategies and devise methods for improvement. The contract included a $10,000 fee for his keynote speech at a district convocation at the beginning of the school year.
In an outline of his proposed scope of work, Noguera said last year that the district’s efforts to close the achievement gaps have not produced “significant or sustainable” change over the last two decades.
“We can’t just focus on what happens in the classroom,” he has said. “It’s absolutely important, but it’s also important what’s happening outside in the community, especially for kids with more disadvantaged circumstances.”
Noguera’s arrival in the district was met with mixed emotions. Although some parents and community members have applauded the district’s attempts to address equity issues, others have said the problems are too widespread to be fixed by one scholar.
Noguera, who was recently appointed to join UCLA’s faculty after a stint at NYU, taught in public schools and has worked with campuses and districts across the country in advisory roles. He has published hundreds of articles and reports on education and has researched the influence of social, economic and demographic factors in schools.
Noguera has said that parent engagement is crucial to closing the achievement gap that persists between minority students and their peers, although the district’s recent proposal to create a parent engagement coordinator position was met with pushback from parents and community members.
Thursday’s school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Samohi is located at 601 Pico Blvd.