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By Don J. Fessenden
Why does the achievement gap continue to grow? The answer to this question is simple, unfortunately the solution is anything but simple. It continues to grow because those in educational leadership positions at the state and federal levels fail to identify the real problems. Why? Because to identify the real problems in closing the achievement gap, they would need to make statements that are far from politically correct.
Let me say, this is a problem that needs to be addressed at all levels, however today, we will take a closer look at our high schools.
At the high school level, the problem of closing the achievement gap is one of motivation and accountability. We have students who are not motivated to learn and stakeholders who don’t, or won’t hold these students accountable for their actions.
Throughout my twenty years in education, I have witnessed dedicated teachers and administrators do everything they possibly could to get students on the right track. Only to have other stakeholders step in to deflect accountability for poor academic performance from the student to the teacher. This is not only unacceptable but it’s extremely counterproductive.
Let’s look closer at stakeholder responsibility…in closing the achievement gap.
Politicians…need to stop treating education as a business, it’s not! While it may make sense for a retailer like Walmart to look at same store sales annually to determine their success. In education each year the cohort changes, so to try and compare one cohort to another, would be like comparing one Walmart store to a totally different store. Of course Walmart would never do this because it doesn’t make sense, so why are politicians trying to do it in education.
Educational Leadership…need to stop focusing on teacher effectiveness as the problem in education. While we understand it’s the only stakeholder under their control, they’re effectiveness is not the primary reason for the growing achievement gap. Until, leaders look at the tough factors and move away from the easy ones they will never solve the achievement gap problem.
Teachers…need to continue to find new ways of motivating their students as well as hold those students not meeting expectations accountable. They need to also do a better job of making lessons more relevant to their student’s interests. Another area needing attention is differentiation of lessons and student expectations. We must also do a better job in communicating with parents.
Parents…need to support teachers and collaborate with educators to develop their children. In the sixties if a student wasn’t performing parents held their children accountable. Today, most parents hold teachers and schools responsible for all failures.
Students…need to understand that the key to their future lays in their hands and in the end they will only have themselves to blame for their successes or failures. It takes intrinsic motivation to succeed in life and a lack of this motivation is likely to guarantee a lifetime of struggle.
Community/Society…needs to hold those in blue collar careers with the same esteem given to college graduates. If this was done, those students aspiring to join the trades would not feel like failures. Only when society changes its definition of success will we be able to move toward closing the achievement gap.
Leave a comment, tell us what you think.
Next up…Motivation is the key to closing the achievement gap!