School districts across the country are struggling with the challenge of closing the racial achievement gaps in their schools, and the Lubbock Independent School District is no exception. Test scores in LISD are showing a performance gap among minority students. So, the district is implementing new programs to help narrow that gap.
"Our minority population is growing tremendously," says LISD's Deputy Superintendent for Secondary Education, Fred Hardin, Ed.D.
The differences in academic performance between ethnic groups is increasing just as rapidly. "There's a discrepancy in the test scores between ethnic groups and as our demographics are changing especially here in Lubbock, Texas and LISD we have more and more Hispanic students," says LISD Board Trustee, Linda DeLeon.
Compared to other groups, Hispanic drop out rates are the highest among the three major ethnic groups and have not declined significantly since 1972. Hispanics also have lower SAT and other standardized test scores. "We've got to do everything it takes in order to encourage these students in LISD to reach their ultimate goal and graduating and going to a university and getting a degree also," says DeLeon.
One of many programs in LISD helping students stay interested in their education is Mrs. King's piano class at Cavazos Junior High. "When I started there were 15 pianos and we had many keyboards with nobody sitting at them. Now we've got 21 keyboards and we need to knock out another wall," says piano teacher, Linda King.
Mrs. King says her class is more than just learning how to play the piano. Music helps them learn how to concentrate, set goals and stay interested in their education. LISD board member Linda DeLeon says this class is just one way to give students hands on learning and it's already producing positive results. "Programs like fine arts programs really encourages them to stay in school because it's something they love to do," says DeLeon.
"Music is math. And music and math are very closely related and once people see there's a very big correlation you can see test scores go up," says Mrs. King.
Promoting the fine arts is just one way to narrow the achievement gap. LISD also hopes to provide additional training for teachers, make higher education courses more available and provide mentor support for families with struggling students.