A Tenacious Gap

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Novelcover_blog_3Today’s New York Times looks at recent reports and studies giving evidence that

Despite concerted efforts by educators, the test-score gaps are so large that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) proposes to close gaps in achievement, but the fact is, these gaps persist for the majority of U.S. students. The November issue of Educational Leadership takes on NCLB–In particular, these three articles voice the hopes, criticisms, and possibilities of minority achievement under NCLB.

In “No More Invisible Kids,” Education Trust Director Kati Haycock credits NCLB for spotlighting previously ignored student groups, and driving reform that will benefit poor and minority students. She cautions, however,

We will not close gaps in achievement until we close gaps in teacher quality.

Teacher quality is a concern that reverberates throughout November’s EL, and today’s NYT article. The Times also cites several other areas where minority students are losing ground to their white peers, and presents compensations like

  • Extending early-childhood education to more students.
  • Staffing experienced and knowledgeable teachers in poor and urban schools.
  • Combatting summer learning loss.
  • Providing more opportunities for poor and minority students to take advanced courses.
  • Increasing funding to poor and minority schools.

NEA’s President Reg Weaver hits some of these points, and adds a few more (reducing class size, making accountability meaningful, replacing punitive mandates with positive supports), in “A Positive Agenda for ESEA,” also in this month’s EL.

While the Times concedes scattered examples of schools that have significantly narrowed minority achievement gaps, evidence show these to be more or less diamonds in the rough. “How NCLB Drives Success in Urban Schools” puts some of these gems on display, as Heather Zavadsky reports from the five high-performing urban districts competing for the Broad Foundation’s top prize. From Zavadsky’s view, NCLB is driving stronger curriculum and better use of data to target the needs of struggling schools and students.

Log in to this month’s Educational Leadership, and dig deeper into the issues behind today’s top news stories.

If you haven’t already done so, check out the ASCD Poll on NCLB. So far, very few respondents blame NCLB for widening the achievement gap.