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Webster School District Struggles With Achievement Gap

Efforts to close gap showing little signs of success

Clinical Research Center
October 27, 2017
Efforts to close the gap between white and African-American students in the lower grades are showing little signs of success, a Webster Groves School District administrator said this week.

In a report given to the Webster Groves Board of Education at its Oct. 23 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Learning Kristin Denbow noted the gap in math and reading tests for kindergarten through the sixth grade.

"What the overwhelming data shows is that our students are entering our school system white students and our African-American students with a big gap," said Denbow, noting that in some cases, the gap keeps growing.

"We saw this trend last year in that our incoming students actually have a bigger gap this year than we actually saw last year," she said. "We were talking about early intervention and what we needed to do with our youngest students in kindergarten and first grade."

Denbow also noted some mixed results in the "summer slide" of achievement for first through sixth grades.

Scores actually increased for the first grade, possibly because the largest group of students participating in summer school was before that year. For second grade, it was up for whites and down slightly for African Americans. There was a sharp dip for the third grade, a slight dip for fourth and fifth grades and a deeper dip for sixth grades.

"As the years go on, the summer slide continues to grow. And in some cases, there wasn't a general trend for our white students and our African-American students," Denbow said.

Staff Diversity

During the same meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Sandy Wiley reported on efforts to close a different kind of gap: in the number of professional staff members of color.

"What we've found in some of our dialogues is that a lot of those I've spoken to either don't know about Webster Groves School District and/or don't think that Webster Groves is a place for them for whatever reason," Wiley said.

The district wants to provide an informal opportunity for candidates of color to come and learn about Webster, Wiley said.

Possibilities include a diversity fair and getting access to colleges and universities where possible candidates attend, Wiley said.

District Audit

In other news, the independent CPA firm of Clifton Larsen Allen, reported that the district received a "clean" audit opinion on its financial statements for the fiscal year 2016-17. That's the highest level of financial reporting a district can have.


The board also appointed Kathryn (Jayne) Drennen, Elyse Manterfield, Justin Hauke and Kurt Schafers as new members of the district's finance advisory committee for a term of at least three years. The committee advises the district on various finance matters, including salaries, budgets and funding sources.

In addition, the board appointed Stephen Myers to the building advisory committee to a term of at least three years. The committee advises the district on different aspects of it building program, such as roofs, carpeting, parking lots and athletic fields.

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