Letter: City schools must take action to fix achievement gap

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In its May 22 edition, Mountain Xpress published the cover story “Unequal Opportunity: Goals, Timeline Lacking in Program Aimed at Racial Achievement Gap in City Schools” by Virginia Daffron, as part of an ongoing series addressing the racial achievement gap plaguing Asheville City Schools. This letter is a response to that article.

Daffron’s article argued that the district’s strategies to address and fix the racial achievement gap are “elusive.” Now is not the time for elusiveness or to merely “address” this problem. According to County Commissioner Al Whitesides, we have already “addressed” the issue, but it will continue existing until we decide to “eliminate” it.

Instead of coming up with a specific, districtwide plan with dates and metrics, ACS officials continue to state that our black students are failing due to poverty and unstable home lives, placing the onus on the larger community and the parents of these children rather than focusing on their own actions. I am not writing to dispute that there are outside factors making it harder for black students to learn in Asheville City Schools.

However, these factors alone wouldn’t make the district the worst performing for black students in the entire state. If the district is truly committed to fixing this alarming achievement gap between black and white students, it must work to make specific changes in its own treatment of black students.

Our children are in school for a large portion of their day. School can have a huge impact on students’ lives. Are our schools reinforcing existing racial inequities for black students? Cross-community supports are important, of course, but there are actions the schools can take to positively impact these students. The first is the recruitment of more black teachers — 92% of ACS teachers are white, and studies have shown that the implicit racial biases of teachers have a negative effect on students, starting in pre-K. Secondly is the recruitment of more school social workers. Lastly, the district must follow clear, time- and data-specific goals in regard to the gap between black and white achievement and discipline.

We must take this failure, acknowledge and own it, and then make sure such disparities are eliminated. This is our call to action. The future of our children depends on our decisions, and I want to see Asheville lead.

— Olive Wilbur
Asheville

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4 thoughts on “Letter: City schools must take action to fix achievement gap

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Until there is equity and inclusion with a single ALL ONE school system in Buncombe County, these problems continue. $16,000 per student spent per year is outrageous compared to $6300 per student per year in the county system. WHERE is the equity and inclusion in those numbers? How many MILLION of taxpayer $$$ can be saved per year with ONE efficient system ‘for the children’ and the taxpayers? WHO will answer this question and implement change? City Council, City Manager, ACS overpaid bureaucrats, the unnecessary ACS ‘foundation ??? WHO will address this???

    Otherwise, get YOUR children OUT of government screwls as FAST as you CAN!!!

  2. Jessica Grubb

    I am a proponent of early intervention! That being said , we are beginning a yearly occurring three month span where students living in poverty and middle class students have completely different summers. Pricey enriching camps, experiential learning through summer vacations with family, daily activities utilizing the areas attractions like AMOS, Biltmore, WNC Nature Center, etc are all beyond the means of students living in poverty. Middle class students return to the classroom with a language enriching summer of activities and camp. How can we address this three month gap for students living in poverty? These are our students year round not just for nine months.

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