Major City Schools Report Highlights Duval’s Work to Close the Opportunity Gap


A new national report shines a light on Duval County Public Schools for their work in helping students overcome poverty, opportunity gaps and other obstacles.

The Council of the Great City Schools, a well-regarded education advocacy organization, published a study called “Mirrors or Windows? Which aimed to measure the progress cities have made over the past decade when it comes to whether scores are improving among students in urban areas with high concentrations of poverty.

“Our question in this report is simple: are urban public schools, which have the largest number and largest concentration of poor students in the country, windows or mirrors? the report explained.

The report highlighted Duval County as one of 17 areas out of 27 cities measured that showed “statistically significant positive district effects in 2019”.

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Other cities and regions also highlighted included Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, the District of Columbia, and Miami-Dade County.

“The report reaffirms what is clear from the visit to our classrooms. The quality of the educational experience in our schools is exemplary, ”said Duval School Superintendent Diana Greene. “There are a lot of social ingredients in a test result or a school grade, and when you break it down like this report does, you see the work of our teachers, principals and support staff is another reason. for which Duval is a great place to learn and live. “


According to the Council of the Great City Schools, the study uses statistical methods to compare the nation’s largest and most diverse school districts.

Factors considered included free or discounted lunch eligibility rates, percentage of family income below $ 15,000 per year by school zip code (6.8% in Duval County), ethnicity and race demographics, English language learner status, and parental education.

As noted by Education Week, the report also considered changes that would impact an urban community over time, such as changing demographics, as a way to exclude outside factors that are typically credited for earnings. and school losses – such as gentrification, rising poverty rates and homelessness or the changing proportions of children learning English.

“We allocated credit to schools based on the population they serve,” Ray Hart, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, told Education Week. “What we haven’t done is credit schools for the education they give to the people they serve.”

Yet there are limits. For example, the study is limited to data from the National Education Progress Assessment, which was last administered in 2019. For this reason, declines triggered by the coronavirus pandemic are not included.

Results are also based only on cities and school districts participating in the urban district trial assessment. Duval County Public Schools began participating in 2015, meaning results from 2009 to 2014 could not be compared apples to apples like other school districts.

The report used data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for reading and math scores in fourth and eighth grades and used statistical methods to predict the performance of students in each demographic group. These projected numbers were compared to actual student performance and the difference between the two results gave estimates of the impact of a school district.

“In other words, we created a measure of ‘value added’ or ‘district effect’ using data from the National Education Progress Assessment to determine whether urban school districts are producing enough “Educational couple” to alleviate poverty and other variables to any degree know how they were doing it, “the report says. “We’re also looking at neighborhoods that weren’t making as much progress and discussing what they have in common. In this way, we try to discern whether public schools, and urban public education in particular, are a force for upward social mobility or whether they simply reflect and perpetuate the inequalities that society creates. ”

The group says this study could help educators revamp their game plans as the coronavirus pandemic subsides in the years to come.

Duval schools perform well in reading in fourth and eighth grades

The performance of Duval County public schools warranted some thanks throughout the 84-page report.

Specifically, the district was praised for “significant positive effects on the district in 2019” for fourth grade reading and eighth grade reading.

District was also highlighted for having “considerably greater district effects” in three combinations of levels or subjects. Duval County was one of nine cities and districts including Dallas, Cleveland, New York and the District of Columbia.

Yet other areas were not as strong.

In eighth grade math, for example, Duval County schools had a “district effect” of 2.35 in 2019. In comparison, Miami scored 6.65 for the same grade and category. , which has been hailed as significant growth.

“This report reminds us that we still have work to do to ensure success for every student,” said Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. “We remain focused on partnering with DCPS to achieve excellent and fair results for every student. “

Education Week noted that studies of data on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have previously shown that the opportunity gaps are narrowing in large urban areas – which are typically the product of unequal access to resources. . However, what is important about the Council of the Great City Schools report is that it clearly shows how school districts are improving despite challenges, taking into account a common starting point and facilitating ‘identification of effective strategies.

As part of the study, the City Council of Grandes Ecoles visited the areas to determine if there were any commonalities in teaching methods and approaches that could inform the work of other major school systems. urban.

“Although urban school districts have not fully overcome or alleviated the barriers that stood before them, it is clear from the data in this study that schools in large cities can better mitigate the effects of poverty, discrimination, language and other barriers than others. schools across the country, ”said Council Executive Director Michael Casserly.

“We know there is still work to be done, but by examining how well urban schools are ‘overcoming the barriers’, we know that with the right strategies and practices, schools in major cities across the country can succeed. improve and improve, but they can significantly increase the number of students. achievement and deliver results that defy expectations, ”added Casserly.

According to the Council, the visits revealed “several common practices” among successful school districts, including:

  • strong and stable leadership focused on student instruction
  • high academic standards and well-defined educational support
  • strong professional development and support structures in schools
  • system-wide change
  • responsibility and a culture of collaboration
  • resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity
  • support for schools and pupils in difficulty
  • community investments and engagement efforts

“Research has shown that socioeconomic status is – unfortunately – a major predictor of student success, and therefore the real test of our public schools is how well they help all students thrive, what whatever the obstacles, ”said Tutwiler Fortune. “It is a major achievement that Duval County Public Schools are featured in this report. Our schools are windows of opportunity. “

Superintendent Greene said partnerships, such as with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and other groups, also help fill gaps in opportunity.

“The contributions of many community partners also make a big difference in student outcomes,” she said. “The results of this research are a reflection of a community that has come together in incredible ways to support teaching and learning in our schools. “

Below is a complete copy of the report of the City Council of Grandes Ecoles:

Emily Bloch is an education reporter for the Florida Times-Union. Follow her on Twitter or send him an email.


Norma A. Roth