• Erica Peterson

Engagement, Equity and Excellence

In light of the current events, conversations are focused on equity, and rightly so. Equity has been and continues to be at the core of the work we do in schools. With our district partners, we reduce absenteeism, increase instructional time and improve student outcomes. Our work is closing the equity gap.


At the 2020 CAAASA Professional Development Summit—just before COVID-19 school closures—we were proud to present our strategies to engage with parents and reduce chronic absenteeism. Effectively changing processes is the way to lead to equity through culture change. In schools today, distance learning has revealed the gaps in online instruction, which disproportionately impacts disadvantaged students. Lost learning time will be a major factor in student success. McKinsey & Company’s latest report shows:

  • Learning loss (following school closures) will average 7 months but Black students may fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months and low income students by more than a year.

  • Engagement rates lagged in schools serving predominantly Black and Hispanic students (just 60 to 70 percent are logging in regularly).

  • This will exacerbate existing achievement gaps by 15 to 20 percent.

Attendance may be redefined as participation, but the direct link between student attendance and achievement remains. Dwight Bond, Executive Director of CAAASA, reminds us that, "When students miss school, they fall further and further behind. They miss out on new content and they also don’t get a chance to improve on what they know."


Video transcript:

California Association of African American Superintendents & Administrators (CAAASA) 2020 Professional Development Summit


Vallejo City USD Case Study: Engagement, Equity and Excellence

Garth Lewis, Yolo County Superintendent of Schools

It’s a very special honor that we are going to bestow upon one of the heroes of our country. The Yolo County Board of Education took action to unanimously approve resolution 19-29, granting me, as council lieutenant, authorization to present World War II veteran, Mr. Willard Ingraham, an honorary high school diploma—76 years after he would have been eligible.

Erica Peterson, National Education Manager at School Innovations & Achievement

It’s important to come to CAAASA every year, because the conversations around student achievement and equity are necessary and we’re having real conversations in California.

Dr. Adam Clark, Superintendent at Vallejo City Unified School District As we tackle this type of work about disproportionality and students who aren’t being successful…

Erica Peterson What we often see is every school doing their own thing, so that’s why focusing on process is so critical to the foundation, because it eliminates then that opportunity for bias when we put norms and standards in place. Effectively changing processes is the way, then, to lead to equity through behavior and culture change.

Erica Peterson And I know that’s a different kind of thought, because so often, like we talk about equity—about meeting kids where they are—but when we talk about systems, this is where standardizing sometimes comes into place and is necessary.

Dwight Bond, Executive Director, CAAASA

When you miss school, and so much school, students fall further and further behind. They miss out on new content and they also don’t get a chance to improve on what they know.

Erica Peterson So, today we really talked about equity and action and improving student outcomes. I want to share with you some ways in which you can give feedback to folks using some of the Vallejo data. We shared five principles plus one for student improvement: Process, measurement, oversight, communication, people, plus leadership. And combined, those are the same principles for equity in education.


Erica Peterson When we talk about communication, it starts with leadership, but then this is the channel. Effective communication: What are the key components and strategies needed? And this are the things we help the district on, but this is the guiding principles.


Dwight Bond Sometimes, African American students often have issues such as chronic absenteeism.


Dr. Adam Clark The letters were just terrible, they were just Ed. code., right? It was just Ed. code, you can’t read the LCAP, you can’t read the attendance letters—they just ended up in the trash. We were getting no traction on our communication.


Erica Peterson Absolutely. So, where we kind of turn the course is using some of these principles.


Dwight Bond By learning these new strategies, recommendations and hearing what makes a difference to help kids be in school and stay in school.


Earl Smith, Apple Valley Unified School District Coordinator of Alternative Education It’s important that we have information that’s accurate, and can pinpoint where the problems are within your district. You can identify the students at a very young age and talk to the parents and really focus on their success.


Erica Peterson So when you’re executing this five-plus-one methodology, it’s improving student outcomes—it’s closing the achievement gap.


Dr. Adam Clark All administrators of California Education are under tremendous pressure with budget reductions, and with student achievement, and with safety. And so, with all of those, it’s very difficult to have a common message. So, partnering with A2A (Attention2Attendance) really helped in honing in on that message of attendance.


Erica Peterson We know all students can learn. All achieve. But we, as educators, need to provide them with the necessary support so that they can reach their full potential.


Dr. Adam Clark As we’re honing in on attendance, we’re having more face-to-face meetings with our stakeholders, and from doing that, we’re learning more about the needs that our stakeholders have. And so therefore, we’re able to create systems that can really support our stakeholders: In making sure that they are having access to the instruction and to the curriculum that we are providing on a daily basis.


Garth Lewis Willard Ingraham, a World War II veteran, and resident of Dunnigan, California, since 1961. He was prevented from a reasonable access to attending high school as a young man, growing up Louisianan, due to the systemic racism.


[Mr. Willard Ingraham was presented with his honorary diploma by Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.]


Tony Thurmond [Willard Ingraham’s] message is one that we should all be able to relate to as we talk about students from all backgrounds—they must hear this message.


CAAASA Presentation Description Chronic absenteeism in the early grades—foundation years—can have devastating consequences. This is where the achievement gap starts…and where it can be WON! Learn from Dr. Clark as he discusses elements of his Superintendent Action Plan, strategies to engage with parents and reduce chronic absenteeism at Vallejo City USD. Discover action steps to creating a coalition of partners, leveraging data and communication to unite parents with schools in building the life-long habit of showing up.

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