Achievement Gap due to Systemic Inequity
By Karen Humphrey
Though I risk being patted on the head and addressed as “dear lady,” I take issue with Mark Arax’s patronizing attack on Ruth Gadebusch for opposing the measure to split Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) in two.
If the measure’s goal is to improve accountability for student success, where’s the evidence that creating two districts from one—with months or years of chaos following—will produce the improvement Mr. Arax says they’re seeking? Decade-old studies cited on the reform group’s Web site, with no links to original documents, are not strong evidence of causal relationships between size and performance in education systems that have changed dramatically in recent years.
After 15 years in K-12 and higher education policy in Sacramento, I’m very familiar with efforts to improve student achievement. The reality is what Ms. Gadebusch says: The achievement gap is largely a product of communities deeply divided economically and racially where leadership has failed to reduce systemic inequity.
School districts of any size can improve student achievement, and the FUSD has done so, though not yet enough. But districts on their own can’t overcome the social inequities that shape student lives unless the entire community enlists in the effort. A previous attempt to split the FUSD was clearly about splitting affluent neighborhoods from poor ones; the current proposal appears not to do that. But it also appears not to address systemic inequity affecting student lives.
Fresno schools need standards, assessment and accountability, but they also need equity, financial support and shared responsibility. They don’t need to fight continual wars over size and structure. And disagreement ought to be respectful and fact-based, unlike Mr. Arax’s letter. Incidentally, Ruth Gadebusch is not a “veteran community activist”—she is a military veteran and a community activist. She’s also a trusted colleague and friend, and I believe she’s right on this issue.
Someone Needs to Hold the Fresno Police Department Accountable
By Ellie Bluestein
The police chief reports directly to the city manager and the mayor, and they are responsible for his job performance. [Fresno City Manager] Bruce Rudd says it was impossible for [Fresno Police Chief] Jerry Dyer to have known about a beloved deputy chief allegedly gone bad. There are four deputy chiefs directly under the chief, directing operations of the department. Two of them sued the chief a couple of years ago accusing him of violating state law by creating a hostile work environment, of mocking [Fresno Mayor Ashley] Swearengin and her female administrators, saying “City Hall is run like a sorority,” and of harassing them and retaliating against them.
Instead of settling the case openly and publicly, so that the people of Fresno might know if these charges were actually justified, the mayor hired an expensive lawyer from Los Angeles to handle the claims and ended up costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees and settlement claims. The police chief was retained and received a raise in pay. At least five other officers have sued Dyer for unfair practices and discrimination. But Rudd has expressed total confidence in Fresno’s police chief and said it was inappropriate for the media to dig too deeply into the history of the police department’s management structure and personnel. Well, someone needs to do it!