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Thread: Closing the achievement gap ... but exactly which gap?

  1. #16
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    Continuing ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    I guess I'm just exceptional. But you are dodging the question.

    TheRealTruth, I will ask you again: do you think that there are instructional approaches that work in any significant way only for students of color?

    If you think that instruction can be race-specific, then we have a difference of opinion (but one that's not backed up by facts on your side). But if you don't, then I'm correct: what's important is not how we DEFINE the gap, but rather, what CAUSES the gap and what we do to correct it. Educationally, that's what I care about.

    Talking about the achievement gap in terms of race may be the common mode, especially in the media, but it's not a helpful one.

  2. #17
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    Continuing ...

    Quote Originally Posted by TheRealTruth
    In what way are you 'exceptional'?
    Likewise, you have dodged my question. I will try to answer yours and ask that you do the same.
    I don't think we have a difference of opinion there. I can't imagine why a particular instructional approach would work only with students of color.

    You are correctt that finding what causes the gap and correcting it are important, but how can you find what causes something that you have not even defined?
    It doesn't do any good to jump from the widely accepted definition of the achievement gap - the gap between blacks/Hispaic and whites/Asians when it comes to learing - to claiming to want to help ALL struggling students, regardless of race.
    These are two very different topics. And by redefing it in this way, you are short-changing blacks/Hispanics. You are diluting the problem by throwing others into the mix.
    So, here is my question to you - in your re-definition of the achievement gap, where is the gap?
    If you're including ALL struggling students, where does the gap exist?
    Between the absolute brightest & smartest kid and the absolute dumbest?
    There will always be indviduals of all levels - some who learn and achieve easily and some who do not.
    But unless you're talking about specific, tightly defined groups of kids, rather than individiuals, then how do you define the 'gap'? Between who and who?

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    How is helping all struggling students regardless of race short-changing students of any particular race?

    Student outcomes will always fall on a distribution. I want to see us slide that distribution to the right, that is, towards higher outcomes for all.

    Ideally, we'd have as many students as possible scoring at grade level. Defining 'at grade level' opens a huge can of worms, but for simplicity's sake, let's say that we want as many students as possible scoring at or above proficient on MCAS (admittedly, a narrow measure, but one of the few that we have).

    Put another way, the gap is between those scoring proficient or better and those who are not. In this way, we have a 'tightly defined group of kids' (race-blind!) whom we can group (via diagnostic assessment) by educational need: physical, cognitive, reading, math, whatever. These groupings lead to actionable interventions in a way that race simply cannot.

  4. #19
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    Default “Expectations”

    Not being up on educational type things, I too was surprised by the racial nature of the Achievement Gap article. I thought we tried not to look at things in a racial way. Weren’t we moving to a world where race was seen as an illusion, a couple of genes in a code of billions. And I sympathize with the notion that all “struggling” folks need asistance.

    That said, I’ve always thought that school was always bad for the lower half of the class. That’s because educational success seems sensitive to expectations. On one hand, what does being in the lower half do to one’s self image. Nothing good. And for teachers, it’s been shown that their expectations concerning a student’s ability are mostly fulfilled.

    Soooo, what if teachers’ expectations of black and hispanic students are lower (contributing to and reinforced by the Achievement Gap)? This certainly becomes a different issue than how we help struggling students?

    donBustin@verizon.net

  5. #20
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    I'm encouraged that I'm not the only one re-defining the achievement gap. The Boston Globe's David Segal writes here about the gap created by parents actively involved in their children's education compared with those are not.

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    Default Which comes first? Parents or teachers?

    So, which is more important for a student? The level of involvement of their parents in their education or a remarkable teacher? To close the gap, perhaps towns need to educate parents in assisting their children. I would love to take Physics or Chemistry so that I could better assist my children when the time comes.....perhaps a tax credit for parents of children for enrolling and passing college courses in subjects less known to them. Perhaps town-wide writing courses to help parents in assisting their 4th and 5th graders in writing projects. The possibilities are endless.

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    Default The parents are the most important

    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth Price View Post
    So, which is more important for a student? The level of involvement of their parents in their education or a remarkable teacher?
    Based on my own experience as a teacher it was obvious to me that a solid parental guidance was the single biggest factor in the academic success of the student.

    My brother, 7 years older a former Physics teacher and assistant Super of the Camden County NJ School system (now retired) also often remarked to me the same mantra. The parents are the most important factor.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth Price View Post
    So, which is more important for a student? The level of involvement of their parents in their education or a remarkable teacher?
    That's a GREAT question! I've probably posted in this thread or elsewhere the fact that students spend about 13% of their waking hours in school between birth and age 18. Of course, it's not a constant 13%, as the number's 0% until Kindergarten starts.

    Not a perfect analogy, but I'd say that parents "set the table" while "teachers serve the meal." I'm sure that it's possible to get good outcomes with a gap in one area or the other (or even both), but that's got to be an uphill battle.

    I don't think, however, that parents need to be subject matter experts. More than anything, they need to provide a supportive and disciplined environment. They need to talk to their children from (literally) day one. And they need to hold their schools accountable. With that as a base, the great teacher will be what makes the difference--I'm not sure that there's any practical amount of parent involvement short of home schooling that can make up the wide gap between adequate and great teaching.

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