At Open School, the Racial Achievement Gap is Zero

 Two youth sitting on a table, looking over their shoulders at a poster with a poem in two languages.

Oregon's high school graduation rate of 74% is one of the worst in the nation. That number is even lower for students of color and students in families struggling to make ends meet. But some Oregon schools are leading the way in improving academic achievement, especially for students facing inequities. One of these is Open School.

Open School has closed the achievement gap between white students and students of color. Nationally, the gap is 25%. At Open School, the gap is zero.

Here's an example of what Open School does for its students:

In sixth grade, Guillermo exhibited multiple warning signs that suggested he might drop out early. Guillermo's counselor contacted his family and suggested that they enroll Guillermo in Open School East. They were hesitant at first, but eventually agreed. 

 Several kids of various races and ethnicities lined up on a hillside.

After giving the counselor permission to give their information to Open School East, Open School's enrollment coordinator reached out to Guillermo’s family. In no time, a visit was scheduled where the coordinator, Guillermo and his parents could all sit down and talk in Guillermo’s home. 

At the end of 6th grade, Guillermo was scoring at the 3rd grade level in both reading and math, and he was receiving ELL supports as a non-native English speaker. His parents, both undocumented immigrants, were unfamiliar with the system and unsure of how to navigate and advocate for their child without drawing attention to their undocumented status. Their fears for the success of their child won out over their fears of deportation. The entire family attended an Open School enrollment night, and they enrolled Guillermo for the 2014 school year.

 Teacher and student bending over a worksheet.

By the summer of 2015, after lots of hard work, constant communication and an abundance of mutual support, several things had changed for Guillermo and his parents: 

  • On his year-end benchmark tests in 2015, Guillermo met or exceeded grade level in both Math and English.
  • Guillermo no longer needs official ELL supports, having passed the English Language Proficiency Assessment with flying colors. 
  • Guillermo has even met the Smarter Balance benchmark, which is currently believed to be harder than other benchmarks. 
  • Guillermo’s parents have become models for family engagement and participation, and have become leaders in the Open School East community. They have spoken as parent-reps for Open School East to the Gresham-Barlow School District board of directors; volunteered to act as liaisons to similar new Open School East families, working from their own experiences to create an atmosphere of welcome, reassurance and safety for other undocumented families; and participated actively by leading efforts to start a culturally-specific Latino Families group. 

How does Open School do it? In many ways. They center their work around equity. They use restorative justice practices to resolve conflict. They take time for Art and Movement. They regularly engage with students' families. They listen to students and their families. And so much more! Guillermo is just one of many students whose futures have changed thanks to Open School. 

Open School is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner.