E-Mail news for the K-12 education profession | November 10, 2004
The Achievement Gap: Solutions (Part II)
 
Policy-makers and education leaders face some daunting challenges in closing the achievement gap. Current reform efforts focus on a number of core strategies including raising academic standards, improving teacher quality and expanding educational opportunities through vouchers and charter schools. Part II of this report takes a look at some of those strategies, as well as a few others that may hold promise. Part I, which examined the causes of the Achievement Gap was published on Nov. 9.
 
At a Glance 
National panel recommends strategy for raising achievement
Closing achievement gaps requires a combination of educational interventions in the classroom, school and community, according to a new report (Adobe Acrobat required) by the National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability. The report recommends establishing more supplementary learning opportunities, helping teachers master their subjects, building students' trust in their schools and teachers, providing challenging academic work for students and using instructional methods that build on what students already know.   Education Week (10/6)
 PBS special showcases successful urban school: The PBS documentary "Closing the Achievement Gap" profiled New Haven, Conn., charter school Amistad Academy, where 91% of black students have achieved mastery in writing on the state exam, compared with 69% of white students statewide.
ASCD's Educational Leadership focuses on closing achievement gaps
The accountability movement has focused renewed attention on long-standing achievement gaps related to ethnicity, socioeconomic status and gender. The November 2004 issue of Educational Leadership examines the complex issues that cause and perpetuate such gaps and explains why closing achievement gaps demands action on multiple fronts.
 ASCD's Gene Carter on closing the achievement gap: ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter calls on educators and policy-makers not to let the complexity of the achievement gap deter them from working toward equitable learning opportunities for all children. Click here to read Carter's statement.
The News
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Policy Solutions 
No Child Left Behind Act aims to close the achievement gap
The U.S. is aggressively targeting the achievement gap with the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The law requires all states to assess third- through eighth-graders annually in reading and math with the goal of achieving 100% proficiency in those subjects among all subgroups of students by 2014. Schools that fail to meet benchmarks on exams are subject to a variety of sanctions. Click here to view the U.S. Department of Education's official No Child Left Behind site and here to read ASCD's summary of the law's provisions.
 Black and Hispanic superintendents back NCLB accountability rules: More than 100 black and Hispanic school superintendents signed a letter (Adobe Acrobat required) last November urging federal lawmakers not to scale back NCLB's accountability provisions despite the law's shortcomings.
 Harvard University's Civil Rights Project examines implementation of NCLB: A series of studies on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act analyze whether NCLB is improving educational opportunities for and performance of low-income and minority students.   Civil Rights Project/Harvard University (8/12)
 NCLB lawsuits anticipated: Educators say there soon could be a flood of lawsuits about NCLB's difficult requirements as more schools begin to face sanctions. Provisions covering academic benchmarks have been particularly burdensome for schools in areas with high populations of low-income or ESL students.   CNN/Associated Press (11/1)
Panelists debate charter schools
A panel of researchers last month debated whether charter schools are benefiting students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds at a conference hosted by the Century Foundation, formerly the Twentieth Century Fund. Panelists disagreed on whether charter school students were scoring better or worse on tests than their counterparts in traditional public schools, but most agreed that no firm conclusions could be drawn from evidence brought to the table so far.   Education Week (11/3)
 AFT study examines charter schools' performance: An AFT analysis (Adobe Acrobat required) of 2003 NAEP scores revealed that fourth-graders attending charter schools perform about a half year behind peers in other public schools in both reading and math.
 Study finds higher test scores among charter students: A study (Adobe Acrobat required) by Harvard University researcher Caroline M. Hoxby found that charter school students generally benefit from having the charter school alternative.
Study of Florida voucher program reveals inconsistent results
Florida students who used vouchers to attend private schools showed higher gains in reading but lower rates of improvement in math, according to a study that compared the scores of students using vouchers with those of children who remained in their original schools.   The Miami Herald (free registration) (12/9)
 Voucher advocates putting ideology before evidence, study says: There is no tangible evidence to show that vouchers can help to boost academic performance among at-risk student groups, according to a study (Adobe Acrobat required) Henry M. Levin and Clive R. Belfield of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University.
 Study links vouchers to higher graduation rates: According to a study (Adobe Acrobat required) by school choice advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, about 64% of Milwaukee ninth-grade students who used vouchers to attend private high schools graduated four years later, compared with 36% of their peers in public schools.   The Washington Post (9/29)
Policy resources
  • Achievement gap basics: For extensive background information on the achievement gap in the U.S., check out the Education Commission of the States Web site.
  • State-by-state reports offer snapshot of achievement gaps: The Education Trust's Education Watch 2004 State Summary Reports provide state-by-state comparisons of NAEP scores, graduation rates and other data on student achievement and school funding.
  • Achievement gap explanations, research and tools: To visit the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory's Web site on the achievement gap, click here.
  • Minority Student Achievement Network: This site offers lots of good information including a list of news and publications related to the achievement gap.

  • Curriculum Strategies 
    Colorado report decries "soft bigotry of low expectations"
    A report by Colorado's Closing The Achievement Gap Commission says raising expectations for black, Hispanic and other low-income student groups is the first step to closing the achievement gap. Some of the problems faced result from the "soft bigotry of low expectations," according to the report. The commission also recommends creating a rigorous academic environment, hiring more minority teachers and administrators, and encouraging students to pursue college.   The Denver Post (11/5)
     Denver aims to close minority teacher gap: Denver Public Schools have made recruiting minority teachers a top priority. More than 80% of Denver's students are minorities, compared with just 24% of teachers, data show.   Denver Rocky Mountain News (10/14)
    Closing the math achievement gap
    Data from the U.S. Department of Education show that fewer black, Hispanic and American Indian students complete advanced math courses than do Asian and white students. To close the gap, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends that schools expect more from students, adopt a coherent curriculum of important mathematics, hire teachers who understand what students need and implement assessment methods that provide useful data. Educational Leadership (February 2004)
    AP classes no longer just for high-achieving students
    As more schools strive to expand the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes, some observers fear the quality of the program may become diluted. The College Board insists its course standards are sufficiently high and notes that students who undertake the rigorous courses likely will be better prepared for college, regardless of how they fare on the AP exams.   Education Week (11/3)
    Academic, communal classroom influences on student achievement
    Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and minority students appear to exhibit increased achievement when they report high levels of schoolwide communal support in conjunction with high levels of classroom-level academic support, according to a study by researcher James Griffith. ResearchBrief (1/20)
    Successful School Reform 
    High schools in the forefront of school reform
    Many educators including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Director Tom Vander Ark believe the old model of large comprehensive high schools, which tried to be all things to all students, is broken. Reform efforts now focus on creating smaller, more personal schools to help foster "rigor, relationships and relevance." American School Board Journal (November 2004)
    British, U.S. educators discuss urban school reform
    Educators from England and the U.S. recently gathered in Philadelphia to discuss common problems facing urban high schools in both countries such as achievement gap and recruiting and retaining teachers.   Education Week (10/27)
     KIPP inspires urban students to achieve: The Knowledge is Power Program, now in 15 states and the District of Columbia, has become a nationally lauded model for teaching low-income children.   The Washington Post (8/24)
     Seattle presents five-year plan to raise minority achievement: Seattle Superintendent Raj Manhas unveiled a five-year plan to close the racial achievement gap in reading and math by spending about $26 million next year on new programs and technology.   The Seattle Times (11/5)
     Boston Public Schools' Web site outlines achievement gap initiatives: Boston Public Schools has developed a Web site devoted to its plan for closing the achievement gap. The site features test score data, outlines of reform strategies and general achievement gap resources.
    Indiana district ramps up teacher training to close achievement gap
    Fort Wayne Community Schools has made it a priority to close its racial achievement gap and believes that better teacher training could be the answer. The persistent problem has popped up in almost every area of the system, including a large number of minority students being classified as needing special-education services and low participation in AP classes.   FortWayne.com/The Journal Gazette (10/17)
    Perspectives 
    Opinion: Cultural factors contribute to low test scores among blacks
    Harvard University lecturer Ronald Ferguson says that while comedian Bill Cosby's public critique of black parenting sparked a much-needed discussion about race and education, it ignored the complex factors contributing to black students' low test scores. Minnesota Public Radio (9/27)
    Analysis: Negative stereotypes of Hispanics promote achievement gap
    Policy-makers and educators must work to overcome three damaging misperceptions about Hispanics -- that they don't value education, won't learn to speak English and care little about civic life -- says Sarita E. Brown of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C. The Hispanic population is booming in the U.S., and moving beyond these myths is crucial to closing the achievement gap, Brown says. Public Education Network (Fall 2004)
    Opinion: Don't blame the "stereotype threat"
    Negative stereotypes may play a role in depressing minority students' test scores, but they are far from the only factor, argues University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy L. Wax. Attributing low test scores to a "stereotype threat" only helps us to avoid addressing the real issue at hand, which is that many students haven't acquired the proper skills to perform well on exams, Wax says.   The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (4/18)
    Commentary: Minority attitudes toward achievement are critical
    Columnist William Raspberry believes the academic achievement gap between blacks and whites may stem from differing attitudes about effort. He cites researcher John Ogbu's study of middle-class blacks in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where students recognized that success in school depended on hard work, yet chose not to be engaged in their studies.   The Seattle Times (10/7)
    ASCD Resources 
    Articles and Books
  • ASCD Executive Director Gener Carter on the achievement gap
  • "Closing the Achievement Gap: It's Everybody's Job"
  • "Closing the Achievement Gap: A Vision for Changing Beliefs and Practices" (2nd Edition)
  • ASCD Professional Development Events on the topic of Closing the Achievement Gap
  • "The Effect of State Testing on Instruction in High-Poverty Elementary Schools"
  • "School Dropouts: Home and School Effects"


  • SmartStat 
    In 2001, students from low-income families were six times more likely than their peers in wealthier families to drop out of high school. -- National Center for Education Statistics  




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