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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.
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Next up…Motivation is the key to closing the achievement gap!
By Don J. Fessenden
In the past, educators looked at school threats with a different perspective than they do today. Unfortunately we have all witnessed school shootings in quite communities creating the domestic terror vivid in our memories, usually being carried out by teenagers. Most of which have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness. However in recent months we’re seeing a rise in the number of schools closing and sending student’s home because of threats called into the school or district.
These incidences are reported spawning other copy-cat type of threats. All becoming more disruptive than the last. So what are school districts and administrators to do in the face of these elevated threat occurrences? When should they decide to close a school based on a creditable threat? What’s a creditable threat? Who decides and who should make that call, the school principal or the school district? All questions needing answered.
As educators our primary objective is to keep our students safe while providing the highest level of education possible in an environment free from threat of personal harm. This is a responsibility that all educators take very seriously. However is becoming more and more difficult. We understand the challenges of money, disruption, and mass fear that face our district and building leadership. Our district leadership and communities need to provide more money for real mass casualty exercises, as well as allow the disruption in a school day to run an exercise scenario that would help better prepare us for the unthinkable.
And before the unthinkable occurs our legislators need to write tougher terror laws and after the unthinkable our prosecutors must prosecute every offender and our judges need to hand down sentences that will ensure these types of crimes are no longer committed. We will never be able to stop those who don’t value on life from committing terror crimes but we can stop the number of copy-cat perpetrators.
The best way of dealing with terror threats is to ensure they never occur. This will only occur with tougher terror laws and elevated public awareness of the punishments these offenders receive for carrying-out any type of mass terror crimes.
As always, whether you agree or disagree with our post, please leave a comment. Have an idea for a future BLOG post, let us know and maybe we will use it!
Next up…Apathy in the classroom, what’s the solution?