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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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Mentoring skills
Mentoring has already been mentioned.

But a structure to encourage & develop those mentoring skills is also important. Many people have strengths to perform that mentoring task in technical areas & don't even know it, or are a very short step away from being effective as mentors.

A mentor support group in order to help kick start, develop & bolster new mentors? Its like being a good teacher without benefit of teacher's college.

It the first organizational step that's hard.
A sustaining infrastructure. Many people have things to offer, but don't have that organizational spark.

I think an exercise to define needs - by teachers, is important. A bin or "job jar" of eclectic needs that cannot or are not being addressed by financial resources. Something like this forum - but a little more specific.

Maybe ON this forum: a 2 sentence NEEDS bin & a 2 sentence SKILLS AVAILABLE bin?


Created on 02/18/05 by E. Gamauf of Eden Prairie, MN

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Teachers need to have high standards for their students
Teachers work hard every day to make sure that the kids in their classrooms are doing their work. But the real question is: Are the students working hard enough?

I read an article titled "Closing the Achievement Gap" and the author interviewed students in inner-city schools about what they thought could be changed. They said they felt that many students were falling through the cracks because no one was holding them accountable. They felt that if teachers expected more, they might not get it all, but they would be getting more than they are now. They also felt that teachers needed to work hard to connect with their students on a more personal level.

In other words, take a personal interest in your students' lives and help them when you see them struggling. For some of these children, their teacher is the most solid person in their life. We need to take in upon ourselves to act like it.

Created on 11/29/04 by Nicole Marpe of Winona, MN

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Know where your students come from
Experiences provided in educational training are not nearly enough to provide teachers with background experience working with racial diversity and areas of poverty. From my own experiences, many white teachers come from areas that are not that diverse. Teachers need to know where their students are coming from.

Teachers need to have an understanding of their students because the students do bring their home lives into the school setting. Everything cannot be ignored to begin learning; instead, create educational experiences these children can relate to. Maybe then they will be more interested in what they are learning. We cannot do this if we do not know anything about them and where they come from.

Created on 11/29/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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Teachers need to grab students' attention.
Teachers are there to help their students, but teachers can not perform magic. I do believe that there are some things teachers can do to make sure the achievement gap gets smaller. One thing schools can do is to make sure that the classroom sizes are smaller. Having smaller classes will help the teachers concentrate more specific on students needs. Teachers can also make sure they use different teaching styles that accomodate to all the students. Teachers who can keep the students attention, and keep them engaged in the material will help the students achievement in the class. Teachers need to let their students explore subjects from every angle including hands on and experimenting.

I am not sure if this will help to close the achievement gap, but I think it will help the students enjoy being in class and enjoy being at school more. If all students are able to enjoy themselves and get interested in what they are learning, then students no matter background, will succeed.

Created on 11/28/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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Setting standards
When looking at the achievement gap, many things come to mind. What I would like to focus on is the challenge students are given. Through class discussions and further readings, ideas have been pointed out that students who are expected to be "low-achieving" are not challenged at school.

In Closing the Achievement Gap, written by Kati Haycock (March 2001), it stated that some students who are considered to be low-achievening are given coloring pages as their school homework. How are students going to learn and grow if all they do is fill in color between the lines? These students stated that they were not challenged. If they think their teachers do not believe in them, how are they going to believe in themselves.

We as educators need to challenge are students to a level where they will succeed and grow at, but not one of frustration. By raising the standards and allowing students to believe in themselves, the gap may start to close because of the students belief in themselves.

Created on 11/28/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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Beginning within
I read an article titled "Closing the Gap One School at a Time" by Michael Sadowski that referenced Joan Cone, an English teacher at El Cerrito High School in the San Francisco Bay area. Using interviews of students and an analysis of students' personal writing, she noticed a difference in the way students perceived themselves. She said, "...students of color in 10th and 11th grade were not taking advantage of the choices they had." Initially I wonder if the parents of these students did not emphasize education, but I believe that all too often it comes down the student's self-image that we as teachers can improve. I know as educators we cannot be with our students 24 hours a day, but we can make a difference during the time we are with them. Is that not why we decided to become teachers? I believe each classroom should be a place where students feel they are important and that they make a difference. If we can foster this feeling than we can help our students close the gap!

Created on 11/28/04 by Winona State Student Johnson of Winona, MN

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Care and concern top priority
It is of great concern to read about the achievement gap growing in this great state of Minnesota. What is most concerning in the article by Tim Pugmire was a quote by one of the teachers who used poor language themselves! If we want to show ALL students that we care, should we not be modeling the attitude and communication skills necessary in order to bring up those falling behind?

It was also noted that the students of other minorities are "chasing a moving target" as white students continue to progress at a rate some minority students haven't even gotten to. Are we being fair in our testing? Are we comparing apples to oranges? Is the criteria set correctly for where they should be? Everyone has different ideas of what it means to be successful.

But the most important thing for a teacher to be is caring and concerned for their student(s). When a student knows that someone cares, I believe they will be much more likely to try!
This definitely includes parents as well.

Created on 11/19/04 by wsu student meyer of winona, MN

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Cooperation and experience breeds improvement
As a preservice teacher bent on making the most of my undergraduate studies I have become exposed to what I believe is the most true testament to improving the education gap in our state. All in all the focus is directed towards experience, and cooperation with others during said situations. Teachers must forge trusting relationships with their students and must continue to expand their learnings in the face of efficient and effective learning ideas.

As Dr. J Nel wrote in a 1993 article in Educational Horizons, "It becomes important to determine what preservice teachers regard as the most desirable goal for multicultural education, and what colleges of education should do regarding the multicultural education curriculum of preservice teachers." All in all, we need to be aware that future educators like myself are in the best position possible to make the most of our educational experiences.

Created on 11/18/04 by WSU Student of Winona, MN

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Merit pay
When discussing merit pay, we always seem to land on achievement tests as an assessment of school and teacher success. The test does not show growth. The scores from one year are for a different group of kids in a particular grade level than they are the following year. We are not assessing whether a teacher took a group of kids at whatever level and helped them achieve. How can we assess our schools and teachers on such random information? If you want to assess me, compare where my students were at the beginning of the year to where they are at the end of the year. This is how teachers demonstrate growth in their students. It is how the state should be also.

Created on 10/22/04 by David Zukor of Plymouth, MN

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Research instead of opinion
As an education student, I am struck daily by how few of our laws and regulations concerning schooling are backed by legitimate research. Why do we have more faith in politicians, who believe themselves to be education experts simply because they went to school, than scientists and educators, who have years of study, research, and observation that help them draw realistic and truthful conclusions?

I think if we listened to the teachers and the researchers more than we listen to the administrators and politicians we might actually do some good.

Created on 10/16/04 by Siobhan Boylan of St. Paul, MN

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