ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The Albemarle County School Board recently heard a report regarding the causes of achievement gaps among students.

Albemarle County Public Schools hired Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit education consulting and analytical firm, earlier this year.

According to a release, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas directed the firm to identify the root causes for why Standards of Learning pass rates are lower for ACPS students of color than they are for their peers.

Albemarle County students generally do better than their peers across Virginia on SOLs, though results vary, especially when it comes to students of color and economically disadvantaged students who demonstrate lower achievement levels than their white peers.

Specifically, the education firm was asked to look at the achievement gaps in reading and math from kindergarten to fifth grade and in the ACPS Algebra I program.

“This instructional audit is a way for us to better understand and to take more focused actions to address our school division’s historical pattern of persistent achievement gaps between our students of color and their peers in reading and math,” Haas said. “Every child has the capability to learn at a high level, and it is our responsibility to unleash that potential by focusing on high-quality teaching and learning that is relevant, competency-based, research-supported, culturally responsive, and results-oriented.”

The release says a team of professionals from Bellwether visited 11 schools in the division, spending time in nearly 90 classrooms and conducting focus groups with teachers, students, parents and families.

In a school board meeting last week, Bellwether presented its report on the experiences of students of color overall and in the classroom as well as the impact that systems and structures currently in place are having on their achievements.

The report identifies five root causes for the historical lack of progress in closing achievement gaps:

  1. Instructional tasks do not consistently match the level of rigor required by SOL tests.
  2. Adults do not have all the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the instructional needs of all students.
  3. Gaps in the curriculum around K-5 interventions and Algebra I are serving as barriers for teachers and students.
  4. The alignment of the division’s structural approaches to the goals in its strategic plan (thriving students, affirming and empowering communities, and equitable and transformative resources) is unclear.
  5. Both internal and external stakeholders are not experiencing the level of engagement with the division that allows them to be valuable contributors to the closing of achievement gaps.

For each of these causes, the Bellwether team offered recommendations to address it, such as shaping professional development programs to focus on skills to improve the delivery of instructions, expanding ACPS’s instructional and coaching model to increase the number of participating teachers, setting accountability measures for administrators and school-based teachers in meeting student learning goals, developing clearly understood connections between division beliefs and individual actions, and enhancing opportunities for community members, students and others to participate in decisions about curricula and course selections.

A copy of the presentation can be viewed here.