Michael Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, in Madison, Wis., can hardly contain his enthusiasm about recent support his agency received from more than a dozen corporations and hundreds of local donors to help address the achievement gap in his city. “We have received more than $1 million from our local community to target our achievement gap and I am proud the community is investing in our local students to tackle this issue.”
While Madison and Dane County are often listed as ideal places to live in national magazines, the city is facing its educational challenge head-on.
Even without federal funding, but proving what Secretary Duncan says—that some of the best ideas are generated at the local level—Madison is taking a hard look at the academic performance of its students, and examining test scores and other data along racial, ethnic and gender lines. What do the numbers show?
Kaleem Caire, Director of Madison’s Urban League, and whose African American family has lived in Madison since 1902, talks about how
- “85% of Latino students and 86% of African American students are in poverty;
- 45% of 10th grade African American males are proficient in reading, while 87% of white males are; and
- the graduation rate for African American males is only 52%, while the rate for white males is 88%.
This information is reinforced by the Civil Rights Data Collection report recently released by ED. The report show, for example, that 70.7% of white students in Madison public schools take Algebra 1 in 7th or 8th grade, but only 7.1% of African American and 8.1% of Hispanic students take it; and while 69.1% of white students take either the SAT or ACT exams to get into college, only 10.6% of African American and 8.1% of Hispanic students take these exams.
Where does Madison go from here? Sue Abplanalp, Deputy Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District explains that the District’s Building Our Future plan is moving Madison nearer to closing the achievement gap. “The Superintendent’s plan pulls all the partners together to bring new focus on academic instruction,” Abplanalp said. “There will be a strong literacy component with an extended day and expanded summer school to strengthen and sustain reading and math skills.”
She goes on to say, “In the higher grades, emphasis will be put on college and career readiness with a test prep program and expansion of the AVID/TOPS program, for example. And all of this will be conducted in an atmosphere of expanded culturally responsive practices and enhanced family engagement.”
Students enroll in an AVID class in high school to receive intensive coaching, academic instruction and study skills. The Dane County Boys and Girls Club’s Teens of Promise (TOPS) afterschool tutoring program buttresses the AVID structure so that there is academic continuity outside the school environment. According to program directors, 100% of the students in the AVID/TOPS program have graduated from high school and 95% have enrolled in college.
Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson says, “Today there are more than 500 students in the AVID/TOPS program, and the Boys & Girls Club provides more than 40 tutors in the classroom. In 2010-2011 African-American and Latino students in AVID/TOPS had higher GPAs than their peers who were not in the program, and AVID/TOPS students had fewer behavior referrals than their peers not in the program.” He continues, “We are excited about the community’s support and the generosity of local donors like philanthropist Mary Burke, who co-founded the AVID/TOPS program in Madison, Great Lakes Higher Education Corp and the Madison Community Foundation for taking the lead to help fund such an effort.”
–Cynthia Dorfman is Director of Regional Communications and Outreach