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New Seattle schools chief: We'll fight disparities with data

Gabriel Spitzer

As students around Puget Sound begin a new school year, administrators are pushing hard to close disparities in student achievement. It’s front and center for the new superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, where the district is developing a new tool to help him do it.

The Academic Data Warehouse is supposed to harness the data generated by all the tests, grades and records students rack up these days. Superintendent Jose Banda said it will help teachers track how their kids are doing in real time.

“If you don’t have that specific data, it’s kind of like flying blind,” Banda said.

The new software system is meant to help teachers and principals sniff out problems early. The district has already used the system to analyze attendance patterns, trying to spot students at risk of falling behind or dropping out. Test scores, grades and mid-course assessments will also feed into the system.

“Whether it’s specific student data, group data, or you’re just looking for trends, it’s going to help inform what you’re doing with your curriculum, your instruction and some of the resources you have,” Banda said.

Teachers will get training in how to crunch all the numbers.

Seattle schools have struggled with gaps in achievement. Last year, for example, 45 percent of African American 10th graders missed the state standard in reading – about five times the share of white students who fell short of the benchmark.

Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.
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