Superintendent Aguilar Addresses Inequity within Specialty Programs

By Adrianna Iorio, Clarion Staff

On February 21, 2018 students and parents gathered in the new auditorium at C.K. McClatchy High School to seek answers regarding mistreatment of minority students in top academic programs. This meeting was held as a result of a controversial student science fair project.   The project compared IQ and race within the high school’s HISP honors program which is similar to Kennedy’s advanced academic program, PACE.

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar shown discussing the controversial science fair project at McClatchy High School Forum.  (photo by Clarion Photographer Sarif Morningstar)

The event had 250 people present, among them many HISP alumni, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and the Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. Aguilar wanted the city of Sacramento and its school district to “work together better” to improve and fix issues such as the one that occurred at McClatchy.

Aguilar presented data regarding minority’s application process to the HISP program. He reported to the audience that out of the 3,303 current eighth graders, only a small chunk (260 students) applied to HISP at McClatchy. The school board found an additional 349 students met or exceeded that average, but did not apply to the program.

So who are these 349 non-applicants?

Aguilar suggested changes need to be made in this application pool to make HISP a more diverse program. He suggested the possible root of this issue is transportation.   Many students who don’t apply can be found throughout the Sacramento area and vary in distance from McClatchy. Despite stating the obvious, Aguilar did arrive at a solution to this problem.

Several other factors included students with diverse backgrounds thinking they weren’t good enough for HISP, or they decided not to join despite being fully aware of the program. This claim did not just involve HISP, but similar advanced learning programs and how students are selected for them.

Xavier Porter, a sophomore at McClatchy, quickly debunked Aguilar’s suggestion that students in the Sacramento area knew about HISP but simply did not apply for the reasons previously stated.

“I didn’t hear about the HISP program when I signed up for my high school classes.”   Porter added, “I found out my freshman year, when a fellow student was explaining why he was better than me because he was in HISP.”

Students, McClatchy alumni, and parents asked the district to discipline the teacher responsible for allowing this science project to be displayed.   Carlos Molina, a former McClatchy student, asks, “Where was that science teacher? Where was the adult in the room who could have had a teachable moment?”

Mayor Steinberg however hoped that this controversy will spark change within our school district.  He concluded, “the project contained data we cannot ignore, and this is not just a high school issue but a community problem as well.”


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