Teacher-led investigation sheds new light on racial issues at Decatur

Teacher-led investigation sheds new light on racial issues at Decatur

Benson Gathany

“It might not be the 1960s,” David Schaar said, “but it’s a historic time for civil rights.”

Schaar, Decatur physics teacher, is a primary figure behind the recent discussions on the issue of race at Decatur.

Discussions were spurred on when Schaar noted marked variations in Decatur test scores.

These variations were directly correlated with the race of students taking the tests, with African-American students scoring lower, on average, than White students.

“The numbers we were getting for our test scores were not consistent,” Schaar said. “That made me realize that I wasn’t doing as well to educate all my students as I wanted to, and not all of my students were coming out of my classes having learned the same amount. That doesn’t seem fair to me.”

So far, the discussions have explored the problems, but have involved no direct action. However, Schaar has big plans for improving student equity in the classroom.

“We’re gonna have to have some conversations about [fairness in the classroom], and I think there will definitely be some activities involved,” Schaar said.

So far, these conversations have only involved teachers, but Schaar is hoping to change this.

“Teacher participation is great, and around half of the staff taken part in the discussions,” Schaar said. “But I think we’re going to need student input to move forward.”

Although active student participation is still in the works, there is one source of student info driving the discussions: student perception data gathered from the school climate surveys.

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Results are based on an end of the year survey, which is mandatory for most Georgia public school students. Although Decatur compares well with other high schools, Schaar thinks there is room for improvement.

“Students have been taking these surveys for years,” Schaar said. “We want to look at that data to see what students think.”

In past years, Decatur’s student perception and test scores have been well above the state average, but Schaar and others see a potential for improvement.

“Decatur compares pretty well with a lot of Georgia high schools, but we’re far from perfect.” Schaar says.

Check out the full infographic on the data gathered here.