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The Education Achievement Gap: Minnesota's Embarrassment
The Achievement Gap: Idea Generator
September, 2004

The Education Achievement Gap

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Programs and mentors
A couple of the ways that I feel will help close the gap is to have effective after school and summer school programs and mentor programs year round.

First, we should start identifying struggling students at the lower elementary levels (k-2).

Then we should create after school programs and summer school programs for these students. These programs should focus in three main areas, which are english, math, and science. These students should continue with these programs through out their elementary school years. If necessary, create after school and summer school programs for middle and high school students who are struggling in the three areas.

Second, we should create mentorship programs to help support the after school and summer programs. Mentors can help encourage and support the students by being their tutor and friend.

Created on 11/28/04 by sopheap kruoch of winona, MN

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All-day Kindergarten
I say why not start early? School is where children are shaped into knowledgeable adults. Children should be attending all day kindergarten in an effort to start developing the necessary skills to succeed in school. Starting children right away will give each of them the opportunity to be exposed to all the essential materials needed to be successful in school.

In the article titled Racial Learning Gap Defies Easy Explanation or Solution by Tim Pugmire it is stated that “less than half the kids in Minneapolis start kindergarten with essential literacy skills…” Later in that article Principal Nell Collier says “getting those children enrolled in all-day kindergarten, rather than the traditional half-day, can help close the achievement gap early.”

I strongly agree with the statement by Nell Collier. I feel that exposing every child to reading materials at the same age will give them the chance to advance their skills at a similar rate; this can be done by having all-day kindergarten. Why not start all-day schooling in kindergarten? I believe the earlier teachers start helping children and giving them the knowledge they need to succeed the better off they will be in the long run.

Created on 11/27/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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4 rating
(3 votes)
Reduce class sizes
One of the many steps toward better education would be to reduce class sizes so there is a smaller teacher-student ratio. Wisconsin's Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program, which involved reducing class sizes, came to the conclusion that "class-size reduction benefits all students, but its effects (were) especially powerful for African Americans."

As a future teacher, I completely agree that reducing class sizes can greatly benefit ALL students' learning. Smaller class sizes can allow more teaching strategies to be implemented, such as hands-on activities. When there is a smaller teacher-student ratio, students can get more one-on-one time with teachers, and teachers can get to know and understand their students. Knowing our students is very important because it helps us develop teaching strategies to fit their learning styles.

Created on 11/22/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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5 rating
(1 vote)
Environmental learning
According to a study done by Dr. Gerald Lieberman and Mrs. Linda Hoody of the State board of education, environmental-based learning has been a proven success in closing the achievment gap.

I was particularly intrigued by the study, because of the constructivist teaching method. EIC (Environmentally Integrated Context) involves students creating their own knowledge through topics of their interest. By allowing students to choose their curriculum and follow their own path in learning, the student will take ownership of his/her own learning. By taking ownership and pride in what they have done, students are more likely to succeed.

According to Lieberman and Hoody, EIC breaks down traditional boundaries between disciplines, provides hands-on learning experiences, adapts to individual students needs, and develops an understanding and appreciation of the community and natural surroundings. These are all important when students are to create their own knowledge from learning experiences.

Created on 11/22/04 by Winona State University Student of Winona, MN

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Utilizing curriculum ideas designed by community members
We live in a global society. The literature that is presented to our children in the classroom should reflect that. If it does not, then all students, particularly, those not represented, are at a decided disadvantage.

Why not begin to use materials designed by people who grew up in the community -- people who are products of public school systems; people who care about the kids, because they are their kids?

The Triangleheads and Their Friends is a curriculum that embraces diversity. It embraces the philosophy that we are alike in many ways, but at the same time we are also very different. It takes into account students who may be at the same grade level, but who have dissimilar educational footing.

Background, environment and curricula exposure have a huge impact on the academic foundation on which a student will have to build on. Some students’ academic environment and background knowledge are such that they have been exposed to very rigorous curricula, others have not.

Created on 10/20/04 by Valerie Rose of Eagan, MN

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Fixing the Gap
Schools need to identify students of color who are struggling at an early age. By the end of first grade, these students should be assessed to identify their specific needs and struggles. Students who score consistently below their white classmates should be offered different options to help fix the problem.

Schools could offer a summer school program and highly encourage these identified students to attend. After-school programs with tutors and volunteers could be organized for these students to receive extra help and assistance. Parent programs should also be utilized to encourage involvement outside of the classroom.

Overall, the sooner schools identify students who are scoring lower than white classmates, the sooner proactive strategies can be used to help them learn more effectively and narrow the achievement gap. Schools should make early intervention a top priority.

Created on 10/19/04 by Liza Tegeler of Elkader, IA

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4 rating
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Parent advocacy with the gift of time
Our own personal case has proven that poor children are not always more at risk of not learning to read because their parents are poor but because their parents cannot afford the extra time required to navigate the educational bureaucracy that follows a child who needs extra help.

Most people do not realize the staggering amount of hours needed to successfully advocate for a child needing extra help in school because of a learning disability. It is a system built to afford only the rich and the extremely lucky passage to a lifetime of rewards that only an education can offer if you are among those with a learning disability.

Things to do:
1. Laws for parents to advocate inexpensively.
2. Evaluate every child coming into school by the end of first grade if they have not met specfic educational goals.
3. Teach staff and peers about learning different learning styles.
4. Fund schools to overhaul teaching materials schools use.
5. Have parent advocates not accountable to schools

Created on 10/18/04 by Rebecca schmitt of woodbury, MN

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Identify and build on what works
Identify those children of color who are achieving at grade level and document their family and school experiences. Find the common elements and incorporate them into the educational expereinces of others.

This may mean providing quality early childhood education programs for poor families, giving books to families who don't have them, or sharing quality magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Reward those teachers who are successful with recognition, adminstrative support and opportunities to share their techniques and practices with their colleagues. Not in a system of competition but in an arena of cooperation and team work.

Recognize and beware of self-fulfilling prophecies and racism. Poor and Black children who do well deserve attention and praise. They must be challenged to continue their efforts. White and affluent children who are not achieving at grade level need attention and help.
The hard work of making sure that all children succeed must be based on valuing all children.

Created on 10/18/04 by Beverly Cottman of Minneapolis, MN

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It's time to examine gifted and talented identification
Gifted and talented (g/t) students not identified at a young age can grow up to become bored and frustrated in school. On Tuesday, November 9, at 4:30 pm the Saint Paul School Board will receive a report on the education of g/t students in the district. One part of the report is on identification.

In 2003-2004, 311 of 871 or 35.7 percent of white kindergarteners were identified as gifted and talented. In contrast, just 56 of 824 or 6.8 percent of African American SPPS kindergarteners were identified.

The nonverbal ability test currently employed, supplemented with a portfolio review, is not working. Each of the last two years the Office of Accountability reported larger than expected discrepancies in identification between white students and black and Hispanic students.

Better identification of racial and ethnic minority gifted and talented students is necessary so that more children will be educated to their abilities. Only then will all children reach their full potential.

Created on 10/18/04 by Elaine Dunbar of St. Paul, MN

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How schools can help close the gap
No honest and accurate discussion about the achievement gap can occur nor can any solutions be found without examining institutional racism in our schools. Whether it is the culture, structures, and procedures of low expectations, whether it is culturally irrelevant or biased curriculum, or whether it is the staff not reflecting the students of urban schools, these among other forms of institutional racism must be addressed if schools are going to close the gap.

Collaborative communities of teachers and learners are also critical, particularly in working with students of color who come from cultures and communities with more of a collaborative, extended-family orientation. Raising student achievement of traditionally underserved populations cannot be done solely by one or two outstanding teachers; it takes a whole focused community of learners to raise achievement. When teachers collaborate with each other, with other adults in and out of school, and with students themselves,

Created on 10/14/04 by Paul Spies of Minneapolis, MN

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