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 Significant Gains Reported in Effort to Close Achievement Gap Among All Students

​African American, Latino and economically underprivileged students are closing the achievement gap with their Asian and Anglo counterparts, according to an analysis by the San Diego County Superintendents´ Achievement Gap Task Force.

"Progress among African American and Latino students is strong," said Don Phillips, Chair of the Achievement Gap Task Force and Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District. "The bottom line is, greater numbers of students, across all student groups, are making progress, which means more students have greater opportunities for their future success."

Phillips was one of seven speakers at the sixth annual Achievement Gap Task Force news conference at the County Office of Education´s Joe Rindone Regional Technology Center. Others included County Superintendent Randy Ward, San Diego County School Boards Association President Kelli Moors, County Teacher of the Year Theodosia Ballard, San Marcos Elementary School Principal Candace Singh, Sweetwater High Principal Wes Braddock, and Sweetwater High senior Olivia Escamillo.

Each of the speakers spoke passionately about the importance of closing the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and income groups.

"Education is a fundamental right of every child in this country and in this community," said Ward. "Because we know the consequences for our children when they are denied that right, when they do not exercise that right, or when they abuse that right. The school districts of San Diego County---their teachers, administrators, board members, counselors, and clerks---are committed to this work, and committed to our children. Our partners in higher education are committed. We are pleased with the improvements we´ve seen. But the achievement among too many students is still too low, their progress to slow."

Both San Marcos Elementary and Sweetwater High this year exited from Program Improvement status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Both schools´ principals spoke eloquently about the systematic approach to instruction at their schools, the organizational and scheduling changes they made to accomplish their schools´ improvement, and the unshakable belief among all school staff members that every student can achieve.

While each of the educators received strong applause after their remarks, Escmilla, the Sweetwater High senior, drew tears from many, and a standing ovation from the entire room. The 17-year-old National City resident, a self-described problem student as a freshman, credited her school for changing her behavior, and her life. "I see Sweetwater not only as a school, but as a family. We go beyond the school and help each other out."

Active in a long list of school and leadership activities, and having completed several Advanced Placement courses, she has applied to 17 different universities, she said.