What critical elements make a difference? We all know that being an educator today has its share of challenges and responsibilities: ensuring all students achieve at high levels, acquiring the skills and expertise to support 21st century learning, making sure that cows don't collide with departing school buses...Well, most educators don't have to address this last responsibility, unless you're in Prosser, WA - a small town located about 50 miles from Yakima. What’s impressive in this small community is not just how educators handle the cow/bus conundrum, but more importantly how they’ve accomplished what few districts have been able to do.
The scores speak for themselves. About 70% of the district’s seventh graders in 2007 met or exceeded standard on the WASL reading scores, up from about 50% in 2006. That would be impressive enough, but what’s really extraordinary is that Prosser has been consistently closing the gap in achievement between Latino and white students in specific content areas. For example, each year since 2004 the achievement gap in the area of reading has been shrinking between these two groups of 7th graders. In 2004, 28.4% of Latinos met or exceeded standard, compared to 60.2% of whites— a difference of 31.8. By 2007, that gap had shrunk by half. Now 62% percent of 7th grade Latino students are meeting or exceeding standard as compared to 77.8% of whites. The same scenario is true for 10th grade WASL writing scores. The gap has decreased from 25.9 in 2004 to 14.9 in 2007, with 67.6% of Latinos in the district meeting or exceeding expectations, and 82.5% of whites. As school districts across the nation are looking for ways to decrease the achievement gap that exists in their individual districts, you could ask, so, how did they do it? Considering the dedicated focus of the district for the past seven years, the results aren’t surprising at all.