CHAPEL HILL – With the recent release of the Common Core Standards results, district leaders acknowledge that closing the achievement gap in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is essential in the coming years. As the school system acclimates itself to the new more rigorous method of assessment, it is also tailoring ways to help all students meet proficiency levels.

“We have a history of not doing as well with economically disadvantaged students as we would like,” said Diane Villwock, the district’s Executive Director of Testing and Program Evaluation. She presented an analysis of the Common Core Standards test results to the CHCCS Board of Education last week.

North Carolina adopted the more demanding Common Core Standards in 2010  because research showed that students were not ready for college coursework or the workplace. The 2012-2013 school year was the first in which the teachers, students, and parents saw them fully implemented in the classroom.

The district met 96.6 percent of the 560 federal goals; North Carolina’s READY structure of Common Core Standards were met at a rate of 94.6 percent and included 947 goals.

However, 27 performance goals were not met. Twenty of those unmet goals were from the economically disadvantaged student group.

“One of the parts of my report was to analyze who are the students who are in poverty in our district, and that turns out to be all races,” Villwock said. “Latino and black were around 1,000 [students in total] and whites and Asians were around 400.”

Villwock explained that the district defines “economically disadvantaged” as students who receive lunches for free or at a reduced price.

In her presentation to the Board, she explained that many of those students were limited in English proficiency.

“When you have multiple obstacles for learning, that means that the kinds of support need to be more intensive,” Villwock said.

To help economically disadvantaged students meet the Common Core proficiency levels, the Long Range Plan has outlined strategies aimed at closing the achievement gap.

A Central Office instructional services team was also created and charged with evaluating testing data and tracking student progress.

“We are going to get very targeted about support and really use the data to direct us,” Villwock said.

The district has also begun a strategy called “Response to Instruction.”

“We monitor students by giving them interim assessments. If they are not making progress, we assign an intervention. After the intervention has had a few weeks to work, we do some measures to see if that intervention is working,” Villwock said. “If it is not, we might either add another intervention or intensify the one we are doing, or change.”

Response to Instruction is already implemented in the elementary schools, is being introduced in the middle schools, and has planned implementation in the high schools.

Villwock said she and district leaders anticipated the new curriculum would cause an initial shakeup, but that in time, students would adjust to the changes.

She expects all scores to go up in the coming years as teachers also adjust their instructional methods so that students have practice in items the tests are accessing.

“If you are used to teaching one way, you don’t just flip on a dime and teach some way that is quite different.”