Davidson Assists with Closing Achievement Gap

A five-year, $1.25 million grant recently received by Durham Public Schools (DPS) and the Durham Association of Educators (DAE) has a Meredith College connection.

Betty Davidson, a member of the biological sciences faculty, served on the UNC-Chapel Hill educational leadership research group that helped prepare the grant proposal.

Davidson co-authored the concept paper upon which the grant proposal was based. DPS Superintendent Carl Harris, along with other DPS and DAE officials, honored the UNC-CH authors during a formal dinner in December.

“We are delighted with the writers’ commitments to impacting the trajectory of African American males and creating a document to inform those in the ‘micro-political’ arena. This document centers all the conversations for all audiences for the project.” The National Education Association Foundation’s “Closing the Achievement Gap” grant will fund an effort called “Redefining Futures: Achieving Academic Success for All African American Males,” Harris said.

The concept paper presents data on achievement by both gender and ethnicity. The paper states that “overwhelmingly, the data presented shows that gaps between males and females exist across the board, and that gaps between African American males and other sub-groups are omnipresent … the sheer fact that fully half of all DPS students are African American and 27% of the DPS student population is African American male justifies the focus on this particular group of students.”

Education is a topic in which Davidson has much experience. She is a former Orange County School Board member, a teacher for 20 years, and at Meredith, she is the director of comprehensive science licensure and the coordinator of the introductory biology program.

The research found that the necessary elements for success in closing the achievement gap are effective leadership, exemplary instruction and engaged students “who believe in the value of school.” The concept paper presented several options, including support programs, new course content and partnerships with students’ families and Durham community members. The paper further states, “We know too, that for substantial change, DPS (and the state and national decision makers too) will need to lead communities to re-think deep societal patterns.”

Now that the grant has been received, DPS and DAE leaders have to determine the options with which they will begin. Davidson may join the leadership team as they create a roadmap for the next five years.

“This is an effort we’re all very passionate about; it is a call to action we take very seriously and I hope to be a part of the solution,” Davidson said.

Date Submitted: 2010-03-30

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