A report released Wednesday gave a first look at efforts to improve the achievement of minority students in Pinellas County schools.
The report is part of the Bridging the Gap plan that looks to eliminate the gap between white and minority students in areas such as graduation rates, suspensions and test scores, among others.
Data from the fall semester of the 2017/18 school year showed that black and Latino students were suspended at higher rates than the previous year despite a reduction in the total number of suspensions.
The report also showed only a quarter of black students in grades 3 through 5 got satisfactory test scores in math and English. That is compared with about 36 percent of students county-wide that performed at or above proficiency in math.
Rick Davis is the president of the Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students. He said he was not surprised by the report released Wednesday.
Davis remains cautiously optimistic that the school board will use the data to craft new programs and policies that bring better education outcomes for minority students.
"It's that ability to adjust to the change in circumstances over time and a commitment to the end goal that I think will hopefully keep us on the path," he said.
The most recent version of the "Bridging the Gap" plan was created in the summer of 2017 as the result of a lawsuit settlement with Davis' organization. It also came after a Tampa Bay Times investigation into low-performing schools in Pinellas County's black neighborhoods.
"It is the first time in Pinellas County School system history that the district has made such a commitment and followed that commitment up with a plan of action," Davis said.
In addition to quarterly reports, the lawsuit settlement required the school district to employ a minority achievement officer for the next 10 years.
Education activists hope that the quarterly reports will insure transparency and accountability as the school board moves forward with the 10-year plan.