It has its charge — now, it’s time to start making the change. Working to solve achievement gap problems in the Columbia Public School District, the Achievement Gap Task Force, headed by Skip Deming and Steve Calloway, met for the first time last week.
After sharing their perspectives on the gaps and individual interests in education, the 36 members of the group got to work Thursday, looking at district and national data and concurring on the most glaring gap issues in the district.
Deming said the largest concern was about gaps among African-American, white and Asian students. Deming also mentioned the growing number of Hispanic students in the district and said that members of the task force commented on the need to go back and take a closer look at this group.
In an effort to meet the Columbia Board of Education’s goals for her as superintendent, Phyllis Chase conceived the idea of the task force — a group that hopes to give Chase and the board an action plan for closing the gaps by early January.
To build the task force, Chase relied on recommendations from a number of people in the community already involved in the education system along with involved parents.
In selecting the task force leaders, Chase wanted a central office representative and someone from the community.
Deming, assistant superintendent for instruction, is joined by Calloway, president of the Columbia chapter of Parents for Public Schools and manager of pharmacy services at University Hospital.
Calloway said he has been interested in education on a personal level since his two children were in the district and has since become interested at the district level for about five years.
He said he thinks that serving as co-chairman is a great opportunity and that his selection underscores the district’s desire to draw from the community and resources outside of the administration.
“I’m excited about being involved in the direction the district wants to go,” Calloway said.
The task force will meet twice a month through December to review data, identify issues and develop strategies for the gaps. Between now and the next meeting on Oct. 30, the task force will review some literature and statistics from the meeting, in hopes of continuing toward the goal of eliminating gaps among groups of students.