Closing the Achievement Gap (CTAG)
Closing the Achievement Gap (CTAG)
2012 Celebrating Student Success Awards
Closing the Achievement Gap and the Oregon Diploma
The Academic Achievement Gap describes the gap in achievement that often exists between low income or minority students and their peers. The Oregon dropout rate hit an all time low of 3.3% in the 2010-11 school year and we saw the greatest decreases among our Hispanic, Native American, and African American student populations. This is encouraging news and points to some real success in closing the gap and helping more of our students to graduate from high school. However, our African American, Hispanic, and Native American students still have higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates than their White or Asian peers. We need to keep focused on our goal of preparing ALL students for high school and beyond. For our students today, a high school diploma is not enough. Our students need to leave high school with the knowledge and skills to go on to career training, college, or living wage jobs. And the only way that we will be able to get there is if teachers from kindergarten to high school are committed to helping each and every student to achieve at high levels. It will take all of us working together at every level to ensure true equity in our schools.
Embracing the Diversity of Oregon Schools
The racial and cultural diversity in Oregon has increased dramatically over the past ten years, adding great richness to our classrooms and communities and posing new challenges for our schools as they attempt to meet the needs of an increasingly culturally, racially and linguistically varied student population.
7 Keys to Success
Everything begins here. Educators must possess an unwavering belief that ALL students can and will learn to a high standard. This standard must be consistent and communicated to all – teachers, students, parents, and community members. This is not just feel-good educational rhetoric. Rather, it is a deeply held belief system that forms the basis for action.
Leadership and Focus
A successful school leader is a strong educator and communicator with a powerful, clear focus on achieving academic success. Leadership begins with a principal, but it is not limited to the person at the top. At the best schools, leadership is systemically shared by all educators and stakeholders. This leadership reflects and reinforces a school environment that is safe, nurturing, and respectful – creating a place where learning is able to happen. You do not close the gap without focusing on increasing student achievement. Most successful schools begin by focusing on improving literacy. They pour time, energy, and resources into reading programs with proven results. A strong commitment to literacy typically lifts achievement in other academic areas too.
High Quality Teaching
Exceptional schools pay special attention to the quality, depth, and effectiveness of the instruction they provide. They relentlessly pursue excellence in teaching and learning. They select research-based academic approaches that work for their students, altering and adapting to changing needs and circumstances. Teachers align their curriculum to standards and regularly monitor student progress. The best teachers do not shut their doors to colleagues. They communicate and collaborate. This does not mean that teachers conform to a uniform style; it does mean that they exchange ideas on pedagogy and create professional learning communities.
Schools must regularly monitor student progress and use the data that they glean to modify strategies to best meet the needs of students. The classroom teachers use multiple and regular – even daily –measures of performance in addition to state assessments to sum up student progress near year’s end. We can now analyze data by any subgroup on any subject in any school or district in the state. Our use of online student assessment has also helped us to improve accountability as this system ensures that students are challenged and that results are instant.
The strongest teachers know that they never stop learning and professional growth is a priority at the best schools. Teachers frequently work together in teams to implement programs, share information and monitor student achievement. Teachers must feel a sense of empowerment and ownership of their educational program. The Oregon Department of Education focuses on preparing teachers and administrators for success in racially and linguistically diverse classrooms. Our partnership with the university community has led to agreements among institutions to address these issues in teacher preparation programs, to share best practices across schools of education, and to incorporate them into ongoing professional development programs.
Parent and Community Engagement
Successful schools have parents and community members as active, engaged partners. This is not easy in a school with high poverty levels. However, these schools make it a priority to reach out to diverse communities and to develop fresh, innovative strategies to bring parents as partners into schools. Community engagement is particularly vital in low income schools where the school often provides medical, dental, housing, and financial referrals for families in need. Strong community partners provide additional funding, volunteer hours, and support for schools serving some of our most at risk kids.
Commitment to Action
We know what works. Now we must apply what we have learned to help Oregon’s schools and students succeed. We must pledge to provide an excellent education to all of our children, regardless of the color of their skin, how much their parents earn, or what language they speak at home. The work begins today, right now. We don’t have time to waste when it comes to our kids.
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