Institute's Newest Focus - Achievement Gap
With a mission to improve the academic achievement for all learners, the Institute for Learning Partnership is currently addressing the academic achievement gap in Northeast Wisconsin schools through its “Grants for Improving Teaching and Learning” program and its annual Fall Conferences. For the past three years, the program has sought-out specific proposals for action research projects that will improve instructional practices and curricular focusing on effective approaches to closing the achievement gap.
The announcement for the 2007-2008 grant cycle states that the Institute will give special consideration to proposals that “implement and evaluate…existing programs, practices, and techniques designed specifically to close the achievement gap.”
One such project receiving funding is the “Reading Magic: Parents Reading to Children” program, at King Elementary School, Green Bay. Joan Beyerl Pierner, a second grade teacher and her team were able to use the Institute grant to supply new books for the families of Native American and at-risk children in kindergarten, first, and second grades. They also used the funding to provide a workshop for parents, encouraging them to read aloud daily to their children — a strategy proven to improve the development of essential reading and language.
Another such project is a mentoring/tutoring program for at-risk African-American students at Washington Middle School (Green Bay), led by eighth grade Earth Science teacher, Stacey Siudzinski. The program is designed to help narrow the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
What is the achievement gap?
Various assessments across the country have documented the existence of an achievement gap between students of different races, ethnicities and socio-economic levels. As a group, students of color, students from poor families and students who speak English as a second language are not performing as high as their white, middle class counterparts.
According to an article by Victoria Thorp, GreatSchools.net staff, “Many diverse schools experience an “achievement gap,” meaning that some group of students achieve at a much higher level than other groups, especially on standardized tests. It is common to see persistent patterns of underachievement for lower-income, African-American and Hispanic students on standardized tests. Tests are serving as gatekeepers to a child’s academic future. As a result, schools are being asked to close this gap and to help all children reach high standards.” www.greatschools.net.
In a speech at the Wisconsin Economic Summit (2002), Wisconsin State Superintendent, Elizabeth Burmaster said, “We must close the achievement gap that separates children on the basis of race, economic status, or disability. This is not optional. This is the intergenerational commitment we owe to our children and to our state’s future.”
The Institute for Learning Partnership is committed to supporting projects designed to close the achievement gap and improve learning for all students.
Education Trust Inc., Washington D.C. is an organization committed to closing the gap through research and advocacy. To visit the Education Trust Web site click on: www.edtrust.org