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The Daily Tar Heel

City school board aims to reduce achievement gaps

In an increasingly competitive world, candidates for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board envision all students graduating equally prepared.

At a forum Wednesday, candidates discussed reducing achievement gaps for minorities, measuring student growth and preparing students for the global economy.

The CHCCS PTA Council, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Education Committee and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter of PAGE sponsored the event.

Incumbent candidates Jamezetta Bedford, chairwoman of the board who is running unopposed for the board’s open 2-year position, Vice Chairwoman Mia Day Burroughs, Annetta Streater and Mike Kelley attended the forum, along with new candidates James Barrett and Kris Castellano. Raymond Conrad and Brian Bower did not attend.

Minority students

Candidates agreed on the importance of literacy in erasing the minority achievement gap.

“The most important thing everyone knows and remembers is that every child that comes to us on the first day of kindergarten does not come with the same skill set,” Burroughs said.

Burroughs said quality of instruction and increasing funds for professional development programs are essential.

And Barrett said minority students can be underidentified as gifted, limiting their opportunities.

“The number one issue we have here is low expectations,” he said.

Candidates cited the district’s involvement in the Minority Student Achievement Network as key in discussing the best practices and collecting data.

Measuring achievement

As the district implements the new national Common Core curriculum by 2013, it looks to improve individual measures of success.

Kelley said standards of measurement prescribed by No Child Left Behind are limited.

“Minimal proficiency standards are just that — minimal,” he said. “And they are relatively arbitrary.”

Castellano said the board must also make professional development a mark of achievement.

Global economy

Candidates said they want to expand science, math and world language programs to prepare students for a competitive international job market.

Barrett said he wants to make sure academic priorities are reflected in the budget, especially in the face of statewide funding cuts.

“It’s going to be about increasing our partnerships with businesses and manufacturers in our region,” Streater said.

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