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Ten Things School Districts Can Do to Close the Achievement Gap

A weekly blog to help communities, schools and parents close the achievement gap for all children.

How can school districts help to close the achievement gap?

1.  Adopt state standards for educational excellence. School districts that have low or no educational standards create poorly educated students and cause students of higher socio-economic levels to leave to attend private schools.  High quality standards set the stage for a diverse student population and an excellent
educational system.

2.  Require academic achievement tests that are nationally normed and standardized. Such tests clearly show how well students are doing compared to national norms.

3.  Improve low test scores by creating plans for improvement and implementing and monitoring them consistently. Such plans should focus on excellent quality teaching and research-based program implementation rather than on test score improvement. Get financial aid from the federal and state governments to fund
improvement programs. 

4.  Hire and retain the highest quality teachers that can be found. 
Insist on fully credentialed teachers, with student teaching experience,
if possible.  Consider re-hiring retired teachers for their years of experience and create a job share program for those who want to work ½ time. Hire teachers of all races and ethnic backgrounds, including bilingual teachers. 

Create incentive programs for such teachers to hire on in the school district, including higher pay, cost of living pay, planning time during the school day, well maintained campuses, duty-free lunch and recess times, funds for classroom
materials, enthusiastic and motivating principals, disciplinary support, extra
pay for Masters’ and doctoral degrees, and district awards, such as Teacher of
the Month, Teacher of the Year, etc. A child care program for teachers’ children will draw in stay-at-home moms. Don’t retain teachers beyond their probationary period if there is the slightest doubt that they can perform well. If a district keeps them on, it can never get rid of them later if they fail.

5.  Avoid student tracking by ability or any other criteria. For both Caucasian and students of color, academic success is positively correlated to how an individual is tracked.  Only 6.9% of minority students have access to "gifted and talented" programs, compared to 23% of Caucasian students. Tracking and the quality of academic opportunities affects the gap in academic achievement.

6.  Improve home to school communication.  Provide funding for translators, establish a homework hotline, schedule twice yearly conferences, have report cards translated into several languages, send a monthly principal’s newsletter, plan family-based activities to bring families to the campus, and schedule regular meetings with the principal for parents. The principals and upper administrators
should have “open door” policies. Use "looping" models of instruction, in which
children stay with the same teacher for two years. The advantage is that teachers have greater opportunities to build long lasting relationships with parents and
students. Less learning time is lost at the beginning of a school year because the teacher already knows the students and their abilities and needs.

 

7.  Prevent gangs. Create a balanced program of prevention, intervention, and enforcement strategies.  School districts must work closely with law enforcement to share information on gang activity. Implement student, staff, and parent
anti-gang education and prevention programs. Communicate to staff, students, and parents that gangs, drugs, and weapons will not be tolerated.  Discipline
in a timely, firm, fair, and consistent manner. Establish relationships with parents, law enforcement, and socialservices.

8.  Require ongoing teacher training during an entire teaching career. The biggest factor in student success is theability of the teacher to teach well. Ongoing training keeps the process of improvement continuing throughouta teacher’s career.

9.  Implement research-based programs for student improvement when difficulties first begin. Get government or business funding.

10.  Lower class size. There should be no more than 20 students per class in grades kindergarten through 3. Class size should top out at 30 students maximum in academic courses. Course suchas physical education can handle more students.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

B. Martin February 07, 2013 at 04:13 PM
All of these points are well known to school districts with many underway. The item left out is to how convince/motivate students and parents to work harder in school, not just at sports and other fun activities.
MDonnell Tenner February 07, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Yes some of the districts are doing some of these things, however MN has the smallest amount of diversity and the largest achievement gap in the Nation. See 240 ways to close the gap for more info..
roger b hess jr February 08, 2013 at 01:58 PM
the biggest problem is the whole K-12 structure. not all students learn every subject at the same pace, so stop placing students in grade levels. break up all learning areas, english, math, science, etc. into different levels and let each student learn each level at their own pace. if a traditional 3rd grader can read at 6th grade level, let them move ahead to the 6th grade reading class. if a 5th grader is only able to understand 2nd grade math at the moment, don't have them in a 5th grade math class. let them figure out 2nd grade math and move up at their own pace, and those students who are not progressing as fast as others can receive more individualized help, and those who can progress normally on their own, let them speed ahead without extra help.
MDonnell Tenner February 08, 2013 at 02:33 PM
@Roger B Hess. I agree how can you learn at a 5th grade level and you have not mastered the 4th grade foundations.

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