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The department of education tries to bridge the achievement gap across all schools

Over the past five years, staff members at the Education Trust have shared these and related data on the achievement gap with hundreds of audiences all over the United States. During that time, we've learned a lot about what people think is going on. When we speak with adults, no matter where we are in the country, they make the same comments. Young people, however, have different answers. They talk about teachers who often do not know the subjects that they are teaching.

They talk about counselors who consistently underestimate their potential and place them in lower-level courses. They talk about principals who dismiss their concerns. And they talk about a curriculum and a set of expectations that feel so miserably low-level that they literally bore the students right out the school door.

When we ask, "What about the things that the adults are always talking about—neighborhood violence, single-parent homes, and so on? It's not that issues like poverty and parental education don't matter. But we take the students who have less to begin with and then systematically give them less in school. In fact, we give these students less of everything that we believe makes a difference.

We do this in hundreds of different ways. Let me be clear.

Closing the Achievement Gap

It would help if changes were made outside of schools, too: But because both research and experience show that what schools do matters greatly, I'll concentrate on what works in education.

Standards Are Key Historically, we have not agreed on what U. These decisions have been left to individual schools and teachers. The result is a system that, by and large, doesn't ask much of most of its students. And we don't have to go far to find that out: Ask the nearest teenager. In survey after survey, young people tell us that they are not challenged in school.

The situation is worse in high-poverty and high-minority schools. For the past six years, our staff at the Education Trust has worked with teachers who are trying to improve the achievement levels of their students.

But while we've been observing these high-poverty classrooms, we've also looked carefully at what happens there—what kinds of assignments teachers give, for example—compared to what happens in other classrooms. We have come away stunned.

  • Different approaches succeed because students, neighborhoods, towns and regions are different;
  • The rigor of the curriculum as it is implemented, the quality of teachers, class size, and teacher absence and turnover all have been shown to influence outcomes for students;
  • Groundbreaking research in Tennessee and Texas shows that these effects are cumulative and hold up regardless of race, class, or prior achievement levels;
  • In this program, currently serving 21 out of 115 districts, a plan is developed for each student to coordinate supports from family, friends, and neighbors; as well as mental health and medical professionals, juvenile court counselors, social workers, or others who may be needed.

Stunned, first, by how little is expected of students in high-poverty schools—how few assignments they get in a given school week or month. Stunned, second, by the low level of the few assignments that they do get.

In high-poverty urban middle schools, for example, we see a lot of coloring assignments, rather than writing or mathematics assignments.

Even at the high school level, we found coloring assignments.

Strategies for Closing the Achievement Gaps

Clear and public standards for what students should learn at benchmark grade levels are a crucial part of solving the problem. They are a guide—for teachers, administrators, parents, and students themselves—to what knowledge and skills students must master.

Kentucky was the first state to embrace standards-based reform. Ten years ago, the Kentucky legislature put out an ambitious set of learning goals and had the audacity to declare that all of its children—even the poorest—would meet those goals. Leaders in Kentucky are the first to acknowledge that they are not there yet.

But their progress is clear and compelling. And poor children are, in fact, learning in all subjects. For example, in reading, 7 of the 20 top-performing elementary schools are high-poverty; in math, 8 of the top 20 are high-poverty; in writing, 13 of the top 20 are high-poverty. All Students Must Have a Challenging Curriculum Standards won't make much of a difference, though, if they are not accompanied by a rigorous curriculum that is aligned with those standards.

Yet in too many schools, some students are taught a high-level curriculum, whereas other students continue to be taught a low-level curriculum that is aligned with jobs that no longer exist. Current patterns are clearest in high schools, where students who take more-rigorous coursework learn more and perform better on tests.

Indeed, the more-rigorous courses they take, the better they do. In mathematics, students who complete the full college preparatory sequence perform much higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP than those who complete only one or two courses.

The reverse is true of watered-down, traditional "vocational" courses. The more vocational education courses students take, the lower their performance on the NAEP. Although some of these differences are clearly attributable to the fact that higher-scoring students are often assigned to tougher classes, careful research shows the positive impact of more-rigorous coursework even on formerly low-achieving students.

Since 1983, we've made progress in increasing the number of students who take a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum. But the department of education tries to bridge the achievement gap across all schools pace is not fast enough. Almost three-quarters of high school graduates go on to higher education, but only about half of them complete even a mid-level college-preparatory curriculum four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies.

If we also include two years of a foreign language and a semester of computer science, the numbers drop to about 12 percent. The numbers are worse for African Americans, Latinos, and low-income students. These patterns are disturbing because the quality and intensity of high school coursework are the most important determinants of success in college—more important than class rank or scores on college admissions tests Adelman, 1998. Curriculum rigor is also important for work-bound students Bottoms, 1998.

A few years ago, the chancellor of the New York City schools required all 9th graders to take the Regents math and science exams. Though many people were worried that failure rates would be astronomical, in one year the number of Latinos in New York City who passed the Regents science exam tripled, and the number of African Americans who passed doubled.

Other groups also had gains in science and mathematics. Did they all pass? But as a principal friend of mine used to say, "At least they failed something worthwhile. Students Need Extra Help Ample evidence shows that almost all students can achieve at high levels if they are taught at high levels. But equally clear is that some students require more time and more instruction. It won't do, in other words, just to throw students into a high-level course if they can't even read the textbook. Around the United States, states and communities are wrestling with how best to provide those extras.

Kentucky gives high-poverty schools extra funds every year to extend instruction in whatever way works best for their community: Maryland provides a wide range of assistance to students who are not on track to pass its new high school graduation test. And San Diego created more time, mostly within the regular school day, by doubling—even tripling—the amount of instructional time devoted to literacy and mathematics for low-performing students and by training all of its teachers.

Teachers Matter a Lot If students are going to be held to high standards, they need teachers who know the subjects and know how to teach the subjects. Yet large numbers of students, especially those who are poor or are members of minority groups, are taught by teachers who do not have strong backgrounds in the subjects they teach.

  1. The collaborative sponsored intensive summer workshops, monthly meetings for teachers within content areas, and work sessions in schools to analyze student assignments against the standards.
  2. A few years ago, the chancellor of the New York City schools required all 9th graders to take the Regents math and science exams. Some will argue that there are many approaches to reaching this goal.
  3. Together, we can do it.
  4. But because both research and experience show that what schools do matters greatly, I'll concentrate on what works in education.
  5. Expanding early childhood education programs. In his role, Anderson works with all state education leaders, from governors to chief state school officers — from both political parties — to provide unbiased information, personalized support and opportunities for collaboration.

In every subject area, students in high-poverty schools are more likely than other students to be taught by teachers without even a minor in the subjects they teach see fig. The differences are often greater in predominantly minority high schools. In math and science, for example, only about half the teachers in schools with 90 percent or greater minority enrollments meet even their states' minimum requirements to teach those subjects—far fewer than in predominantly white schools.

  • But we take the students who have less to begin with and then systematically give them less in school;
  • It would help if changes were made outside of schools, too;
  • These connections are complex to isolate and tend to be obscured in national data, but researchers have found a decline in achievement test scores of approximately one-tenth of a standard deviation for each move a child makes.

The patterns are similar regardless of the measure of teacher qualifications—experience, certification, academic preparation, or performance on licensure tests. We take the students who most depend on their teachers for subject-matter learning and assign them teachers with the weakest academic foundations. We believed that what students learned was largely a factor of their family income or parental education, not of what schools did.

But recent research has turned these assumptions upside down. What schools do matters enormously. And what matters most is good teaching. Results from a recent Boston study of the effects teachers have on learning are fairly typical Boston Public Schools, 1998. In just one academic year, the top third of teachers produced as much as six times the learning growth as the bottom third of teachers.

In fact, 10th graders taught by the least effective teachers made nearly no gains in reading and even lost ground in math. Groundbreaking research in Tennessee and Texas shows that these effects are cumulative and hold up regardless of race, class, or prior achievement levels. Some of the classrooms showing the greatest gains are filled with low-income students, some with well-to-do students. And the same is true with the small-gain classrooms.

It's not the kids after all: Findings like these make us wonder what would happen if, instead of getting far fewer than their fair share of good teachers, underachieving students actually got more. In a study of Texas school districts, Harvard economist Ronald Ferguson 1998 found a handful of districts that reversed the normal pattern: Districts with initially high-performing presumably relatively affluent 1st graders hired from the bottom of the teacher pool, and districts with initially low-performing presumably low-income 1st graders hired from the upper tiers of the teacher pool.

By the time their students reached high school, these districts swapped places in student achievement. El Paso, Texas, is a community that has taken such research seriously. Eight years ago, despite the extraordinarily high poverty of their city, local education leaders set some very high standards for what their students should know and be able to do.

Unlike other communities, though, they didn't stop there. At the University of Texas, El Paso, the faculty revamped how it prepared teachers. New elementary teachers, for example, take more than twice as much math and science as their predecessors.

  1. Many of the individual reports note the importance of establishing and improving links and communication among the entities that work with young people and families, but references to schools are relatively few. This means that infants and very young children who experience highly stressful family situations and associated risk factors can be permanently affected.
  2. What else can be inferred from a review of this work? That is, there are many possible ways that a child may develop the resilience to thrive despite significant disadvantage, and although early development is critical, intervention that comes later can still be beneficial.
  3. These include parenting and home visiting programs designed to improve parenting skills and developmental outcomes for infants and very young children; comprehensive early education programs; interventions for disrupted families; and school-based programs focused on specific goals. Workshop Summary Washington, DC.

More to the point, though, the teachers of these courses are math and science professors who themselves participated in the standard-setting process and who know, at a much deeper level, what kinds of mathematical understanding the teachers need.

The community also organized a structure—the El Paso Collaborative—to provide support to existing teachers and to help them teach to the new standards. The collaborative sponsored intensive summer workshops, monthly meetings for teachers within content areas, and work sessions in schools to analyze student assignments against the standards.

The three school districts also released 60 teachers to coach their peers. The results are clear: An Academic Core El Paso and the other successful communities and states have a lot to teach us about how to raise overall achievement and close gaps. Each community, of course, does things a little bit differently.

  • Such programs might encompass parenting, wellness, and other supports, which may be as diverse as dental and mental health care, literacy classes and job training for parents, and extracurricular after school programs for students;
  • And how do we close those gaps?
  • Implications for Classroom Management PDF, 452KB, 28pp Recent research is revealing a great deal about how changes in educational practices and policies can revamp classrooms and schools to close the achievement gaps and promote excellence in learning for all students;
  • The lack of adequate health care and adequate nutrition and untreated medical and mental health problems also are associated with school problems.