Asheville City Schools’ worst-in-NC achievement, discipline gaps widen

FACING FACTS: At a Jan. 22 joint meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education and Asheville City Council — the first in five years — board members and elected officials confronted dire statistics showing that the gap in academic achievement and discipline between the district's white and black students, revealed in 2015 as the worst in the state, has grown larger. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they can break your heart.

Seated at long tables facing one another, Board of Education and City Council members confronted their shared heartbreak and responsibility for the Asheville City Schools’ failure to adequately serve its African-American students. At the unusual joint meeting, held on Jan. 22 at Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer’s request, the district revealed that the disparity in the academic achievement of its black students compared to white students — already the worst in the state — has only grown larger since the district launched a new equity initiative in 2017, designed to narrow the gap.

The last time City Council held a joint meeting with members of the school board was Oct. 2, 2012. Council appoints representatives to the board, who serve four-year terms, but otherwise exercises no oversight of the system.

“Our data tells us that we are doing a disservice to our black students, and you can’t say it any plainer than that,” said Shaunda Sandford, chair of the school board.

Presentations by Asheville City Schools staff were punctuated by stark statements from black leaders who’ve battled the problem for years.

“I spent eight years on the city school board. I’ve had five generations of my family coming through the school system. But what’s appalling to me when I look at these numbers, they don’t get any better,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides. “At some point in time we’ve got to realize: It ain’t working.”

Statistics showing huge disparities in discipline rates and academic achievement between white and black students, Whitesides maintained, can’t be blamed on a lack of resources. “When you think that we have the second-highest funded school district in the state, and this is the results we get? As a taxpayer, I don’t like it. As an African-American man, I’m more than ticked off,” he said. An ACS spokesperson confirmed that in 2016-17, local taxpayers’ per-pupil contributions were the second-largest in the state; taking into account federal, state and local funds, the district had the 14th-highest per-pupil spending of North Carolina’s 115 school districts.

Meeting attendees and participants alike agreed on who isn’t to blame for the dismal statistics: Asheville City Schools students. “Our kids are not broken. Our kids are perfectly perfect,” said Melissa Hedt, executive director of teaching and learning. The disparities, she continued, result from a broken system. “We are going to fix the system and realign it to work for all of our students,” she said.

Disparities in discipline

While African-American students make up 25 percent of the school district’s population, 64 percent of its disciplinary referrals went to black students in the 2017-18 school year, according to data presented by Eric Howard, director of student support services.

The district is looking at policy changes and teacher training as strategies to ensure that bias is not a factor in imposing discipline, Howard said. He alluded to the larger implications of school discipline — “We all know there’s the school-to-prison pipeline language” — and suggested that a larger community effort that addresses students’ needs outside of school will be necessary to stem the flow of young black men into involvement with the criminal justice system and incarceration.

Council member Keith Young, who has a child in the city’s system, said that he frequently sees students facing criminal charges stemming from disruptive incidents in the classroom or elsewhere on school campuses in his work as a deputy clerk for the Buncombe County Superior Court. Mentioning a recent case involving a student who ran across a classroom and yelled at a teacher that was ultimately dismissed, Young remarked, “What that does is it leaves that kid with a record for the rest of their life unless they get it expunged.”

Council member Julie Mayfield expressed the hope that the school system will share more details about the disciplinary numbers. For example, she said, knowing whether the incidents “were dealing with mostly minor things or mostly major things” would shed additional light on the situation. Understanding whether a small percentage of students accounts for an unusually high number of referrals would also help, she said.

“As you can imagine, some of our students are experiencing a lot of different kinds of trauma in their lives,” responded Hedt. “I would love to see some follow-up, including a deep dive into those referrals and the [Department of Juvenile Justice], so that we can go a little more in-depth than we’re able to do today.”

It’s about race

Dana Ayres, the district’s chief academic officer, briefed Council members on a new state designation, Targeted School Improvement. Except for Asheville High School and the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences, all schools in the city district were designated as TSI schools this fall, indicating that “all of these schools are having deficiencies with specific subgroups,” she said.

In addition to black students, other subgroups with significant disparities in academic achievement in the city’s elementary and middle schools include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and English-language learners.

About half of North Carolina’s public schools are on the TSI watch list for the current academic year, including many Buncombe County public schools.

Although multiple subgroups perform lower than the Asheville City Schools average, Hedt said, the gap between black and white students is the largest in the district. In the past, she said, “There was a bit of a reluctance to talk about race, as I think there is in the community overall in Asheville.”

But in 2015, when the district topped the Youth Justice Project’s list of North Carolina school systems with the largest racial disparities in academic performance and discipline, Hedt said, ACS staff undertook extensive data analysis. Even after correcting for the impact of living in poverty, she said, race is the most important contributing factor to disparities in Asheville City Schools.

City staff reviewed programs that provide support to disadvantaged students and their families, including the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy, affordable housing, recreation, after-school programs, school resource officers and crossing guards.

From gap to gulf

By the time school district staff got around to addressing recent data showing the difference between the results of academic testing for black and white students, little time remained in the two-hour meeting.

“I think you have that in your packets that you can look at at your leisure,” Hedt told the officials, who had received folders of material at their seats at the table. Other meeting attendees, however — some 40 or 50 community members, including leaders like Gene Bell, CEO of the Asheville Housing Authority — didn’t have access to the information. Xpress obtained the data, now available online here and below.

While the results vary among years, grades and schools, they generally indicate a worsening academic achievement gap between black and white students from 2014-18.

For example, at Asheville High School in 2014, 28 percent of black students received grades of “proficient” or higher on end-of-course tests in English II versus 84 percent of white students, a gap of 56 points. By 2018, 18 percent of black students were proficient versus 89 percent of white students, a gap of 71 points. Gaps in Math I and biology also increased.

Over the same period, some elementary schools made progress in reducing racial achievement gaps in English, math and biology in grades three, four and five. However, those gaps remained large overall and grew in many cases.

The conversation about black achievement shouldn’t be given short shrift, said retired UNC Asheville professor and State of Black Asheville founder Dwight Mullen. “Why do we have 70- and 80-point differences between the performances of black and white students? Those things are not to be glossed over,” he said.

Never before

Despite the dire news, Mullen suggested that the common understanding shown at the Jan. 22 meeting could mark a turning point for the school system. “We’ve never had this conversation in Asheville. This has never happened,” said Mullen. “I’ve had this conversation among black folk in Asheville, talking about the point disparity,” he added, but not in the broader community.

Mullen cautioned against putting too much faith in any single solution. Teaching all students in multi-level classes (the approach advocated by the district’s ICS Equity initiative) will not automatically lead to improved academic performance among minority students, he said. “The idea that putting folk — even consciously and discussing race — putting them in the same classroom and expecting equitable outcomes, is something that is a complicated and very serious conversation to have,” Mullen warned.

Coordinating “services for housing, for justice, health care and the various initiatives that the principals are bringing forward” will be necessary for lasting change, he said.

“The fact that we’re not coordinating can be seen in the disparity gaps at the city,” he said.

The meeting ended with an agreement to make the coordination Mullen urged a reality. According to Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, City Council’s liaison to the school board, the next step will be for members of Council, the Board of Education and Asheville City Schools staff to plan a broader communitywide discussion and effort to address the disparities.

“We have to keep telling this story and saying, ‘This is unacceptable.’ And not just have a meeting and say it and everybody walks away and pats themselves on the back,” Wisler said. “This is really a call to action to the community that the school system needs the community’s help with battling this very significant problem.”

After the meeting, Young said he isn’t sure what it would take to “beat back this monster” of the achievement gap.

“I don’t know the answer to that, and that is scary,” Young said. “And the scarier part is that we’re the worst in the state at what we’re doing. The second-highest funded district in the state, and we’re the worst in all these numbers.

“The first step is to make sure that we’re all talking about the same thing, we’re all on the same page, and that the ultimate goal is, as [City Manager Debra Campbell] said, to help the whole child,” he continued. “It’s always been beyond the school system, but we’re now approaching it that way.”

Young said he looks to “brighter minds,” including Mullen and others, “who will come to the table and add their special something to the pot to make this what it should be. I know that I’ll do everything I can policy-wise to make that happen.”

See our previous reporting on the achievement gap in “Asheville City Schools take aim at racial disparities.”





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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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39 thoughts on “Asheville City Schools’ worst-in-NC achievement, discipline gaps widen

  1. Grant Millin

    Hi Virginia,

    It must me extremely sad and frustrating for the parents of children with disabilities to see you mention those children only in passing in this article?

    MX, feel free to do a separate piece on the challenges facing ACS’s disabled folks.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Hi Grant, I am the parent of a child with disabilities who attended the Asheville City Schools. I believe other parents of children with disabilities will understand that this article addresses a different topic. This article is about the largest and most pernicious disparities in the system, which are not between students without and students with disabilities.

      • Grant Millin

        Hi Virginia,

        Many, many folk have connections to PwDs (persons with disabilities)… and people of color.

        You may feel things are going swimmingly for our PwD kids and adults. I am not going to challenge you about what you want to do as to substantive MX PwD reporting, but you are welcome to investigate some of the points in my recent commentary or the one I published in 2016 on PwD issues for further reporting:

        WNC’s missing civic connection to disabled citizens

        How does North Carolina include Americans with disabilities?

        I was a tutor-mentor for an ACS African-American male student several years ago. He’s most likely into his 20s. I was worried about him and pray he is doing great.

        This graph midway into today’s piece seems worthy of further investigation, along with whatever you wish to use from my commentaries… and what else you may uncover about Asheville PwD life… that you and others already know, and what may come up with greater analysis:

        “In addition to black students, other subgroups with significant disparities in academic achievement in the city’s elementary and middle schools include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and English-language learners.”

        I do not feel we have to focus on racism and the cost of sweeping systemic disablism / ablism under the rug. Obviously you and other WNC parents of PwDs are interested in getting our PwDs the best possible justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and wellness outcome possible. It is PwD parents who are best set to establish how the system is serving our PwDs, I would imagine. The rest of us do not have those insights.

        None of the nonprofit and government agencies that serve PwDs in this state do that great of a job of publicizing PwD issues at to reports spelling out where things are good, bad, or ugly around Asheville. City hall and the new Office of Equity and Inclusion is sadly an example of disablism / ablism. CPP has done some PwD issue reporting of significance at least.

        I also think the economically disadvantaged students point needs further data as both African-American and PwD students will be the ones struggling there. By the way, I guess you already know that when you say “largest” disparities that the US Census says the Asheville PwD population is about the same size as the African-American population here? Obviously an African-American with a disability here will probably be among our most negatively impacted citizens in need of the most support across the board.

        Do as you wish otherwise. Best wishes to you all, Virginia.

        • Lulz

          LOL oh please. Majority black students come from single parent homes. Their failures start there. Best thing for black students is to get their parents involved via school choice. Your centralized education system is a failure and has been for decades. Just like everything else the government touches. Can we get a comparison of black students in charter schools to ACS? Think they’ll be the same?

          • luther blissett

            “Can we get a comparison of black students in charter schools to ACS? Think they’ll be the same?”

            What’s that? Create a parallel education system with preferential funding and students will do better? Next you’ll be telling us that Asheville School, Christ School and Carolina Day School seem to be doing better than public schools in exchange for $30,000 in fees each year.

            “School choice” means “choice for me and not for thee.”

          • Lulz

            LOL that’s coming whether you want it to or not. Your education system is failing. All you want is more money tossed at it. Time for it to go. Leftist would rather have a huge education system that produces failures with no accountability rather than one that compete for money.

          • Artis Morris

            Lulz with this name I think you have no military experience at all. It’s because of the social services and schools getting involved which leads to no discipline actions

        • Richard B.

          Mr. Millin is stubbornly insisting that Ms. Daffron’s really well researched and reported article is about disabled children.
          It clearly is not, as she tolerantly explains in her polite response.
          If someone writes an article about children with disabilities and the impact on their educational achievement and opportunities, would Mr. Millin be okay if the article inserted a couple of paragraphs about race disparities?

          • Grant Millin

            Hi Anonymous “Richard B.” Avatar,

            If you reply to this, Anonymous Dude, I won’t reply. Anonymity is not a legitimate starting point for community dialogue when others like me who have the courage and basic civility to use our identities are invited by MX to communicate with…. the unknown.

            But I obviously didn’t say at any point that Virginia’s truly well-researched piece is primarily about disabled children. She mentions PwDs (persons with disabilities) also getting short shrift by ACS… but then no data.

            If this community ever gets to the point where PwD issues get the same attention as race issues, we’re headed somewhere better. Because some of the folks with the hardest lives in Asheville are probably African-Americans with disabilities… as in an African-American ACS student with a disability… who may or may not have a proper diagnosis about their disability on top of living with race issues.

            So what’s wrong with MX covering PwD issues more? I agree there was some MX reporting on PwD issues a few years ago as well.

  2. Lulz

    LOL for a bunch of people that call others uneducated because of their votes, you sure as hell are making the case that a left wing city produces exactly just that. All I see is brand new schools but this article clearly states the minds within them are empty.

    Unlike most that now live here, I graduated Asheville High. And attended ACS exclusively throughout my time at school.

  3. WattersandWords

    Lulz, If you don’t mind me asking, are you white, latino, black, white, Cherokee or another ethnicity? Did you see a disparity in how black and white kids were treated at ACS? What year did you graduate? It looks like the white kids in Asheville have great scores. Do you have ideas of how we can bring the black kids level of success up to the white kids? Thanks for your input as an ACS alum.

    • Sharon Smith

      I live in Asheville and have worked in a few of the schools as a visiting teaching artist. As a person of color with a degree in Multicultural education, I was horrified, by what I witnessed there, which is only exacerbated by the system’s blatant racism denial, in the name of diversity and inclusion.

      Racial disparities in ACS will not be resolved by trying to be color blind or racially neutral. Money and time need to be invested in culturally relevant staff and curricula for students of color and Black students, in particular. Unless you treat each child of color like they are endangered–and they indeed are–you will only succeed in making the gaps wider.

    • Lulz

      No difference in treatment. If you wanted to learn you did. One black male with whom I went to school with works in a nuclear power plant. Why did he make it? Maybe because he had a desire to succeed?

    • Mike

      I wouldn’t call barely 70% of white kids demonstrating math competency a “great score”.

  4. Robin

    Like Lulz, I spent my entire education in the Asheville City School system. In the subsequent 35 years, I have been a manager; first in construction and now in transportation; and I have some insight into what’s happening at ACS: I literally turn kids away from jobs because they are unprepared for the real world. I appreciate that they can partially speak a language, not enough to help my business, but they can at least order a taco on a cruise. Most other tasks takes another assigned employee to keep them straight.
    Secondly, I don’t know what ACS teaches kids nowadays, but it’s not useful math and writing. Without a computer to help them, many are blithering idiots when it comes to math and spelling. They may know how to solve a quadratic equation, but they can’t balance a trailer load without a calculator and a computer.
    I wish ACS, and other local school systems, would start teaching kids how to survive in the real world. In the real world, you don’t get a passing grade for simply trying; you get a passing grade for actually completing work. In the real world, you are held accountable to the clock and for your own actions. And in the real world, personal feelings don’t matter, What matters is the manager and customers perception, and my perception is that ACS produces a lot of lazy, incompetent, and ill-prepared whiners.
    Also, from my perspective, it doesn’t appear to be a black or white issue; I think Asheville High School is equally screwing up this generation of kids without regard to race. Although they are significantly fewer and fewer of them (minority applicants), the minority applicants we do get seem to be more grounded in the real world and therefore require less hands on oversight in their initial training period.
    If you want to know how to build successful students, for goodness sakes don’t ask a politician; come ask the owners and managers of local businesses. We’ll tell you where you should focus. Maybe the next ACS superintendent should come form the real world, and not from within their echo chamber bubbles.

    • Richard B.

      This is likely the most honest and “real world” comment on this chain of replies.
      Schools cannot now, never were able to, and will never be able to replace the key ingredients of a stable home and encouraging parents/caregivers. And not starting in high school, or middle school, but in the very early years.
      This is why the numbers are going down while the tax payer dollars are going up.
      Keep it simple folks….the solutions are very complex, but the causes are in plain sight.

  5. Kevin

    We should not make our teachers the scapegoats for irresponsible or non-existent parenting. This is not an issue of race. These problems began at home and this is the result.

    • Mike

      I fully agree. I was a University prof for 40 years and I can guarantee that a student who does not want to learn will not learn regardless of what goes on the classroom. Furthermore, I reject the idea that it should be the teacher’s job to convince students to want to learn. I’m skeptical that it can be done at all in most of these cases. But if it is done, it should be done in special “Motivation” classes taught by someone skilled in motivational leadership. It’s nuts to expect every Math/English/History/Chemistry teacher to be able convert those whose home and neighborhood situation has convinced them to resist learning.

  6. luther blissett

    ” I literally turn kids away from jobs because they are unprepared for the real world. ”

    When you started work 35 years ago, was it on a paid apprenticeship?

    “If you want to know how to build successful students, for goodness sakes don’t ask a politician; come ask the owners and managers of local businesses.”

    Do the owners and managers of local businesses typically offer paid on-the-job training, or do they expect junior-level employees to have done all that ahead of time in exchange for a wage that hasn’t gone up in real terms for the past two decades?

    The idea that schools should be offering trailer-loading classes is both lazy and delusional.

    • Robin

      In response to Luther:

      When I said unprepared for the real world, that is in the form of many things, such as: skills (inability to do math and write coherent notes), show up on time (or meet a schedule), and inability to cope in a normal work environment. I don’t mind if they are unskilled but willing. It’s when they are unskilled, unwilling, and ungrateful is when I first notice they won’t fit with our organization.

      I didn’t start on an apprenticeship program, but my company does now offer apprenticeships for certain positions, through a Dept. of Commerce sponsored program. In fact, prospective apprenticeship employees are given an accelerated pay increase incentive in exchange for a commitment contract, so to answer your question, yes, they do. (The program is also extended to eligible GI Bill veterans, but that tidbit is probably frowned upon by the typical MX reader.) I also noticed in a recent job posting that the City of Asheville has recently started copying the trend of the private sector by offering incentive bonuses for certain positions.

      I mentioned trailer loading as an example of a task new employees fail at. The reference being that the current generation of employees are missing basic math skills, not that they are expected to know the task from the womb. The point wasn’t that schools should offer trailer loading classes, it was that they are failing to teach our kids how to do (and retain) basic math skills.

      Based on your response, maybe reading comprehension is another area where schools could focus some extra emphasis.

      • luther blissett

        Fair enough. Out of interest, how much was your first paycheck at a full-time job? What were the benefits? I ask because, as someone noted elsewhere, middle-age bosses getting huffy about teenagers’ post-school skills and work ethic don’t always remember that $3.50/hr in 1984 was a higher real wage than $7.25 today.

        • Lulz

          LOL where oh where is this mystical job that pays 7.25? Totally and utterly a blatant falsehood. Anyone that pays 7.25 won’t find people to work.

        • Robin

          I started out at $3.35 per hour, which was the national minimum wage at the time. I would typically bring home around an even $100, and I was tickled to have done so. The only benefits back then were health insurance (that I paid) and time off. Our most recent job posting, for an entry level position, was advertised at $11.75. Benefits included are: health insurance (provided for employee, but they pay to add family members), 4% 401k (that employees can match), all kinds of other purchasable insurances (life, critical care, etc.), and the same time off deal that I got. I don’t know the specific value of 1984 dollars versus today, but it sure seems like a better deal today.

          But back to my original point, it seems as though young adults today lack both the critical skills necessary to be successful employees and the drive and desire to succeed; pay and benefits seem to be a secondary consideration. At least half of that equation is on the school system, and as long as Asheville City Schools continues to prioritize irrelevant course loads, and even more irrelevant testing; they will continue to be a back marker in the product that they produce. We, as consumers of that product, should demand that they do better.

          • luther blissett

            “I don’t know the specific value of 1984 dollars versus today, but it sure seems like a better deal today.”

            It’s a little better in terms of real wages. What’s changed since 1984 is the relative cost of housing, healthcare — even with insurance — and other fundamental expenses. (In the US, luxuries are cheap and essentials are expensive.)

            “it seems as though young adults today lack both the critical skills necessary to be successful employees and the drive and desire to succeed”

            My broader point is that if one grows up in an environment where 35-year careers in non-degree work are commonplace — not 35-year jobs, but the ability to build up transferable skills with some kind of upward trajectory — then it’s natural to think that the same circumstances apply today. But in recent years, young people entering the workplace have seen their jobs and skills (and effort) treated as disposable. And again, in fairness, that’s not something individual employers can fix on their own.

            (I’m with you on “irrelevant testing”, and any conversation with a teacher will endorse that. But that’s not something individual schools can fix. The people who grew up without teaching-to-the-test have dictated it.)

          • Richard B.

            I realize that it is several days and comments later, following Robin’s plea to our school and government leaders to recognize the need for more “real world” education, however, after today’s experience, I must comment.
            He noted that the kids coming to him for work, are largely totally unprepared, with little to no work ethic, or understanding what is required of them.
            Today my vehicle had to go in for inspection at our local shop. It is a highly successful, family run business of many years, second generation runs it now. It was noticeable that there was a longer back up than usual, and that the young owner, who has become a friend, had his sleeves rolled up and was one of only a couple of workmen in the shop, instead of at the front desk coordinating the work flow and managing the operations where he is usually found.

            He felt compelled to explain to me his frustration in hiring help. It is extremely challenging, and it is an obstacle to growth. The young men and women he has hired, walk out upon learning that they cannot use there cell phones except on break.
            They show up for work 15-20 minutes late, with numerous excuses, seemingly unashamed of being late. When I asked if he had considered AB Tech students from the Automotive Occupational Training program, he replied that indeed he had. Many quit after a few days, adding that they could not take direction, wanted to use their phones whenever, had little or no work ethic.
            Now I understand that not every HS student aspires to be an automotive technician. But the truth is, it is not about what job you are doing at the moment, it is all about how well you are doing it. And I further understand that it is not necessarily the school system’s task to teach this intangible. It is, however, the system’s obligation to do what it can to instill a work ethic in every student.

      • Richard B.

        Admire Robin’s extremely balanced and forbearing response to Luther’s rather snippy, impertinent comments. Because I don’t think that I could be as restrained.
        Also give credit to Luther for his “fair enough” acknowledgement.
        Makes for good discussion all round.

    • Artis Morris

      I think you need to show your face cause they are pinpointed because they babysit your kids and mine. Blame the system cause now you can’t discipline your kids cause of social services and school nosy. Talk about why they didn’t get funding? Know it all

  7. Steve

    google the following: Enhancing the Common Core with Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching

  8. Enlightened Enigma

    Get YOUR children OUT of government screwls as FAST as you CAN! They will thank you forever!

    read more on facebook group, Asheville Buncombe Politics

  9. Enlightened Enigma

    Why do people send their children to the government to be indoctrinated in the evil ways of progressive socialism, teaching nothing but government dependence ? The problem is with the parents who received no education either from their government screwls!

  10. Sharon Smith

    The article is about racial disparities in Asheville City Schools, and some of y’all are literally denying the data, insiting it’s not about race. Which only proves my point, that color-blind/race neutral strategies do not work.

    • Lulz

      What you’re calling for is school segregation when you get down to it lulz.

    • Grant Millin

      Hi Sharon,

      I have to ask about where people with disabilities fit into the big picture here in Asheville, otherwise I am happy my white church at least partners with an African-American church. I wish the racial inclusion and equity picture was improving for all impacted groups, but of course this is a bad time.

      Otherwise all MX comments are filled with the thoughts of anonymous folks. It’s painful to witness but until MX cancels anonymous comments just look away. I happened to need to communicate with Virginia but thankfully I gave up wasting my time with news article commenting and most social media comments.

  11. Enlightened Enigma

    the comments are much more truthful than Grant and Sharon want to realize …the problem with ACS screwls is unnecessary. Consolidate these two antiquated systems into an ALL ONE system of diversity, equality and inclusion. The other problem is AVL’s many parents who should have never procreated ….

  12. Thomas

    But wait the ACS Foundation book club had those few books about white privilege. They even had a speaker come to town to explain to the racists on how to explain white privilege to their kids. Issac Dickson even raised all that money for the solar panels. The schools even started Social Justice Clubs. Spending money to make white people feel better. When there are failures maybe we should look to the leaders as the failures or at least those who hire them. Seems to be a pattern of poor choice in leadership in Asheville. But who is to blame?…….. Why do we have two school systems? Twice the administrative costs? Does it make sense?

    • Lulz

      LOL because government programs thrive on failure. You don’t take control of economies and enlarge your bureaucracy by being a success. If you think about it, the system needs failures to keep its budgets growing.

  13. jason

    How can we be so bad? We spend so much money and fund county and city schools. Perhaps we should fund a study to get to the bottom of this, and/or hire some additional staff to tackle this problem.

  14. Kelsey

    Statistics are a funny thing… Here, we’re looking at a change in the achievement gap over time. But, not only do the test scores and the gap between them change, the populations whose scores are being compared also change.

    As the No. 2 Gentrifying City in the country, it seems to me the widening gap between white and black students in Asheville City Schools may say more about who’s moving to Asheville than about the success or failure of students that have been in the system long-term. We’re seeing an influx of remote-working, craft-beer-drinkers wanting a “walkable” lifestyle in a foodie town… namely, middle class white people that are overeducated for the local job market. And, they have kids! So, even if black students were making modest gains, an incoming population of high-achieving white students would still cause the gap to widen.

    I’d like to see the stats comparing long-term ACS students, excluding those that have been in ACS schools less than, say, five years. I’m not saying the achievement gap isn’t an issue worthy of attention, I just wonder what’s really behind the numbers. It seems pretty obvious you can’t have equality in educational outcomes if you have significant inequalities across every other facet of society.

    • Virginia Daffron

      One thing the term “achievement gap” doesn’t convey is that black student achievement in the Asheville City Schools in grades 3-8 is the lowest (12.1 percent score “proficient” or higher) in any of the state’s 115 school districts.

      Asheville’s white student achievement in those grades is the fifth-highest in the state, and combined student achievement in those grades is the 15th-highest in the state.

      So it’s not only about the gap. It’s also about black student achievement in absolute terms. I continue to struggle to understand whether the circumstances of African-American families in Asheville are an anomaly compared to black families in other parts of the state, or whether the performance of the school system in meeting the needs of this portion of its student body is what’s anomalous.

      I’m sure you are right that the demographics are shifting. For example, ACS has said that the numbers of students receiving free and reduced lunch are declining significantly. The district attributes that to the rising cost of living in Asheville (i.e., poor people are moving out of the city or not moving in).

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