Tulsa Parents Working To Bridge Achievement Gap Between Black, White Students

Thursday, January 6th 2011, 9:26 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- African American students at Tulsa Public Schools lag nearly 30 points behind their white peers on state exams.

It's an unacceptable statistic for some Tulsa parents. So they're coming together to bridge the gap.

They're calling it a community conversation. But organizers say this is more than just talk, it's an action plan to save a segment of students who are falling further and further behind.

The Tarvers are a young family rooted in North Tulsa. But when their oldest son Jaden came along, they found themselves making a difficult choice.

Jaden goes to school at Country Lane. These parents, both raised in Tulsa Public Schools, chose to send their son to a suburban school district.

"We felt kind of at the start of his education that Tulsa might not be the best place for him to get the best education," Dejuan Tarver said.

"It really is challenging to relocate to the outskirts when the pulse of everybody that we love and what we do is here," said Eunice Tarver.

There's a significant achievement gap between TPS's African American students and their white peers.

In 2007, 87 percent of white students passed state math tests, while only 59 percent of black students did.  Three years later, a gap remains with 77 percent of whites passing and only half of black students making the grade.

"Definitely. It just screams to me that I have to be involved," Eunice Tarver said. "I have to make a difference. And it has to be collective."

The Tarvers joined a community conversation on closing the achievement gap. They're meeting for dinner and staying for a brainstorming session to come up with solutions.

"We are not just talking. This is serious," said Gwen Goff. "And we're working from a proven pilot. So we know that it works."

Gwen Goff, one of the organizers, says these meetings will lead to an action plan for the school district. She's encouraging everyone to participate because the success or failure of these students is not just a North Tulsa problem.

"We are talking about the future leaders of our country of our city. When everyone does well, we all do well together," she said.

Thursday night was the second community conversation on the achievement gap; 200 people attended the first.  They're still coming up with their action plan, but they discussed accountability and ways to get parents engaged in their children's schools.