Liv Ames for EdSource Today

Thuyen Hoang, 10, left, Nang Moon, 10, and Julianna Lopez, 8, "squish" the bag of liquid polymers to form a solid bouncing ball. Garfield Elementary in Oakland, after-school program

The vast achievement gaps in the Smarter Balanced test scores released this month point to the ineffectiveness of reforms over the past 15 years or more that were intended to close those gaps, raising the question of whether a new set of reforms being introduced in California are more likely to succeed.

Those reforms include the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards; the Local Control Funding Formula, which allocates additional funds for high-needs children and grants local districts more decision-making powers; and a more comprehensive accountability system that emphasizes deeper learning skills, and promotes support for schools and teachers in place of punishment or sanctions.

Only 28 percent of African-Americans and 32 percent of Latinos who took the test in California met or exceeded standards on the English language arts section of the Smarter Balanced tests, which students took for the first time this spring. By comparison, 61 percent of whites and 72 percent of Asian-Americans met or exceeded standards in English language arts. The differences in math are even wider. Only 16 percent of African-Americans and 21 percent of Latinos met or exceeded the standard in math, compared with 59 percent of whites and 69 percent of Asian-Americans.

Addressing racial and ethnic inequality

These differences come against the backdrop of arguably the most sustained national conversation on the causes  and effects  of racial and ethnic inequality that has occurred at any time since the Civil Rights Movement.

The fact that the disparity in academic achievement is so wide in a state like California is even more troubling than in states where educational and political leaders may have been less committed to serving students from diverse backgrounds. In addition, during the past two decades, California has beaten back the anti-immigrant sentiments surging through other states, especially against Spanish-speaking immigrants. Latinos now wield considerable political clout in the state, and have helped drive education reforms here.

The last time there was a substantial narrowing of the gap in the U.S. was from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, as measured on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.” A  2010 report by the Educational Testing Service, titled “The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped,” observed that since the late 1980s “there has been no clear trend in the gap, or sustained period of change in the gap, one way or another.”

“The gaps were there and are still there,” said Michael Fullan, a Canadian educator who is working with several California school districts and the California Department of Education to promote what he calls “the right drivers for change.” These include promoting teamwork and collaboration, improved instruction and “systemic” rather than “piecemeal” change. The ongoing achievement gaps, he said, are an indicator that “the in-your-face accountability (of the No Child Left Behind law and related reforms) is not working.”

The NCLB law was supposed to hold school districts “accountable” for results. Teachers, principals and superintendents were prodded to reach a goal and rebuked when they failed to do so. By 2014 every child, regardless of background, was supposed to be proficient in math and English language arts. California, like every other state, did not come close to meeting that goal.

California’s ‘accountability’

It would be easy to dismiss NCLB as a top-down misguided federal strategy. But California promoted a similar ethos of “accountability” through the Public Schools Accountability Act approved in 1999 by the state Legislature.

Unlike NCLB, California’s accountability plan emphasized improvements from year to year, rather than setting fixed levels of proficiency that schools had to meet. During the reform’s early years, the state provided cash rewards to teachers, principals and schools that succeeded in improving performance. But the rewards part of the reform equation soon fell victim to the series of budget crises that California has experienced in recent decades.

Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, gives those accountability reforms a failing grade. “I don’t think there is any evidence that accountability systems have been effective in reducing achievement gaps,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by UC Berkeley School of Law professor Christopher Edley, Jr., who chaired the Equity and Excellence Commission established by Congress to advise the U.S. Department of Education on disparities that contribute to the achievement gap. Edley said the continuing achievement gap shows that the “approach to school reform starting with the 1983 A Nation at Risk report has run its course and left us with this yawning gap that is endangering America’s future.”

 

Testing low-level skills

Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who is president of the Learning Policy Institute  in Palo Alto whose goal is to “shape policies that improve learning for each and every child,” said one reason the approach used in recent years did not work is that “test-based accountability” reforms like NCLB emphasized “tests of low-level skills.”  Those tests shaped what students were taught, especially in schools threatened with sanctions if they did not produce higher test scores each year.

“As a result,” she said, “the curriculum divide grew wider between those schools that were teaching for higher-order skills and those drilling kids on lower-order skills.” Compounding the problem was that NCLB reforms featured “testing without investing,” Darling-Hammond said, so the gap “in access to dollars, qualified teachers, technology resources and other materials for learning grew wider and wider between rich and poor schools.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” she added, “and these data (on the achievement gap) show just how much.”

Given short shrift in the accountability reform era was the preponderance of research showing that the greatest predictor, by far, of how well or badly a student performed in school was his or her socio-economic background. Reformers often dismissed any reference to a child’s background as an “excuse” to let schools off the hook.

But it was precisely during the era of reforms demanding more “accountability” from schools that income inequality in California increased more than in all but a handful of states. According to one report, California ranks third among states with the highest economic inequality. The extent to which these inequalities affected the most recent test results is unknown, but if the research is any guide, they must clearly contribute to them.

Will new reforms work?

The big question is whether the new set of reforms in place in California will make more of a difference than the ones they are replacing.

Experts interviewed by EdSource agreed that, in general, California is moving in the right direction.

Stanford’s Reardon pointed to new research from UC Berkeley’s Rucker Johnson showing that states that have done more to equalize funding among poor and rich districts have seen improvements in educational outcomes of children in lower-income districts.

But Reardon is withholding judgment as to whether the Common Core will translate into major improvements.

“Will the Common Core make things better or worse or make no difference in terms of equity?” he said. “I hear competing arguments. Both have merits.”

One argument, he said, is that more-affluent districts will have more resources to meet the raised expectations embodied in the Common Core standards, and will widen inequalities in education outcomes.

The other argument is that the Common Core will put pressure on schools to move away from what he terms the “drill and kill” approaches to the curriculum of the NCLB era, and that by “pushing toward higher standards of instruction and learning, the kids in disadvantaged schools will start getting what kids in advantaged schools are getting.”

“Both are very plausible arguments, he said. “We don’t yet know how it will play out. I wouldn’t venture to predict at this point.”

Stanford’s Darling-Hammond, who is also chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said the state has invested $2 billion into technology upgrades and professional development for the new standards that she believes “will begin to level the playing field” over the next few years. “I would expect to see a reduction in the achievement gap because of all these factors,” she added.

Cutting poverty’s impact

It is also clear that while California will funnel more funds to schools serving low-income students, it will not tackle directly the income disparities that students experience in their home environments – and which are so highly correlated with test scores and academic outcomes generally.

UC Berkeley’s Edley says that schools can do much to mitigate the effects of poverty, starting with expanding access to early education and preschool. Another strategy would be to expand the community schools model, in which schools become a hub for the entire community and bring together many partners and organizations that offer a range of services to children, youth and families.

But for community schools to be truly effective, the approach itself needs to be improved, said Edley. The key is to ensure that the range of health and social services community schools are supposed to offer “are baked into the structure of these programs rather than being “ad hoc and voluntary.”

Fullan believes that the impact of poverty on academic achievement can be reduced “by half” with better teaching. This involves focusing on the needs of English learners, promoting better leadership and “zeroing in on improved instruction and getting teachers to work together,” he said.

“The new strategies in education are competing with poverty and can make more of a difference than we think we can make,” Fullan said. “If you really end up saying there is nothing we can do because of poverty, then you are really dead in the water.”

But if Fullan’s assertion is correct – that the impact of poverty on the achievement gap can be reduced by half – is that good enough?  Shouldn’t California be striving to reduce the achievement gap altogether?

That will take significant investments that California has been so far unwilling or unable to make. “I doubt that schools alone will ever entirely reduce the achievement gap without some equally concerted efforts to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in incomes and neighborhood conditions outside school,” Reardon said.

EdSource will be looking closely at the achievement gaps reflected in the Smarter Balanced test scores in California that were released on Sept. 10. This article will be accompanied by a series of interviews with leading educators and scholars that we will publish over the next several weeks. They include interviews with  Christopher Edley, Sean ReardonMichael FullanLinda Darling_Hammond and Marshall “Mike” Smith.

 


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  1. John 11 months ago11 months ago

    I love kids and I wouldn’t do anything but teach them. The idea that we’re going to overcome the disintegration of the family in minority populations – which is what this gap is really about – is not a problem solved by money, government, or the educational system. This is an issue related to the values and habits of each family- namely, that parents take the primary role in supporting education at home.

    Replies

    • Louis Freedberg 11 months ago11 months ago

      Don’t think there is compelling research showing that the achievement gap is caused by the “disintegration of the family in minority populations,” or because parents don’t support education. What the research shows is that the gap is most highly correlated with income, rather than divorce or other features of family breakdown, or lack of support for education.

      • Ze'ev Wurman 11 months ago11 months ago

        I'll accept the correlation with income. So why is it? Clearly, kids don't eat money to become successful. It is also unlikely that parents bribe teachers to give Johnny a passing grade. Some argue that the teachers are better in affluent schools. Perhaps. But how much better? We know that their years of experience in affluent schools are somewhat longer, but (a) the difference is not that huge, and (b) we know that teachers, on … Read More

        I’ll accept the correlation with income. So why is it? Clearly, kids don’t eat money to become successful. It is also unlikely that parents bribe teachers to give Johnny a passing grade.

        Some argue that the teachers are better in affluent schools. Perhaps. But how much better? We know that their years of experience in affluent schools are somewhat longer, but (a) the difference is not that huge, and (b) we know that teachers, on the average, stop improving after about 5 years.

        To me, the answer is rather simple. The school curriculum is largely ineffective, and in affluent schools overwhelmingly kids get extra-curricular support to compensate for school’s academic vacuity. And then the school system takes the credit for its supposed excellence. I see it in my own town.

        When the school curriculum is strong, and it is run in a no-nonsense way, children achieve … of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Like Nancy Ichinaga did in Inglewood 20 years back. But it takes an enormous effort and a ton of guts to tell the district office to go and fly a kite, and dump the fashionable nonsense that goes for a curriculum these days through the window.

        Schools don’t need more money. Schools needs strong academic curricula. Private money in affluent districts simply compensates for shitty school programs.

        • CarolineSF 11 months ago11 months ago

          There are outliers, but no one has ever found a consistent way to propel impoverished children to success. Anything that happened in Inglewood (L.A. County) was pretty clearly an outlier, or illusory, since the once-hailed school district has basically collapsed in ruins.

          “We know what works” is the usual mantra, but reality has resoundingly shown that that isn’t true in a consistent, scalable, replicable way.

          • Ze'ev Wurman 11 months ago11 months ago

            Actually, much of Inglewood "collapsed in ruins" once Nancy Ichinaga left, because she was not around to protect the no-nonsense curriculum. So the usual products of teacher colleges regained power and reintroduced the garbage that goes for a curriculum these days. It worked for her, it worked for Jaime Escalante, it worked for every teacher that was strong enough to push the central office idiots away and apply a rather simple common sense. And then … Read More

            Actually, much of Inglewood “collapsed in ruins” once Nancy Ichinaga left, because she was not around to protect the no-nonsense curriculum. So the usual products of teacher colleges regained power and reintroduced the garbage that goes for a curriculum these days. It worked for her, it worked for Jaime Escalante, it worked for every teacher that was strong enough to push the central office idiots away and apply a rather simple common sense. And then it collapsed when that teacher retired or was fired. Time after time.

            As to not knowing wot works … consistently works … go and re-read Don Hirsch’s “The schools we need and why we don’t have them.” He shows how such gaps were eliminated in France when the focus was on no-nonsense curriculum. And how our pursuit of fashionable nonsense destroys children.

            • CarolineSF 11 months ago11 months ago

              Superwoman Ichinaga was able to propel an entire school district (true, a smallish one) to miracle status singlehanded -- so singlehanded that it collapsed without her! Wow. I hope LAUSD is talking to her to replace Deasy/Cortines. Regarding Escalante, one thing that has been largely politely overlooked is that he wasn't able to replicate the success in a different school. I believe his explanation was that he was only able to work that success with … Read More

              Superwoman Ichinaga was able to propel an entire school district (true, a smallish one) to miracle status singlehanded — so singlehanded that it collapsed without her! Wow. I hope LAUSD is talking to her to replace Deasy/Cortines.

              Regarding Escalante, one thing that has been largely politely overlooked is that he wasn’t able to replicate the success in a different school. I believe his explanation was that he was only able to work that success with his own ethnicity and not in a diverse, high-poverty classroom.

              OK, I may have to go read the Hirsch book. I am highly skeptical that France, which of course does have a visible impoverished-immigrant-minority population, has no achievement gaps. But I’ll certainly eat my words if I find out.

  2. Melanie 11 months ago11 months ago

    Just thinking about theories of social psychology and conjecturing...I realize that there are many confounding factors in outcomes. Is it at all possible that emphasizing diversity related to performance outcomes (e.g., Smarter Balanced Test Scores and last 15 years of CA education reforms), compared to states that traditionally place less emphasis, so to speak, is basically a deficiency model at work? Could such efforts vicariously contribute to gaps, thus contributing to a social expectation or … Read More

    Just thinking about theories of social psychology and conjecturing…I realize that there are many confounding factors in outcomes. Is it at all possible that emphasizing diversity related to performance outcomes (e.g., Smarter Balanced Test Scores and last 15 years of CA education reforms), compared to states that traditionally place less emphasis, so to speak, is basically a deficiency model at work? Could such efforts vicariously contribute to gaps, thus contributing to a social expectation or expectations of self that are negatively impacted?

  3. Tony La France 11 months ago11 months ago

    I would not characterize 15 years of reform not working I would point to 15 years of in adequate funding from the state for our schools. Until recently we were funded 49th.

  4. Alex 11 months ago11 months ago

    I work for a education reform nonprofit that partners with hundreds of education organizations across the country (although these are my personal opinions here), and I greatly appreciate your article. The best way to enact ed reform is to face up to its failings and take a different, more inclusive and nuanced approach. There's been so much focus on disruption and innovation in the education system (especially here in California) that we've all but forgotten … Read More

    I work for a education reform nonprofit that partners with hundreds of education organizations across the country (although these are my personal opinions here), and I greatly appreciate your article. The best way to enact ed reform is to face up to its failings and take a different, more inclusive and nuanced approach. There’s been so much focus on disruption and innovation in the education system (especially here in California) that we’ve all but forgotten the issue we set out to resolve in the early 2000’s.

    For those of you wondering why the achievement gap is an issue in the education agenda, ask yourself if you would allow your child’s school to be randomly chosen out of the thousands of public schools across the country, and ask African American and Latino families if they are satisfied with the educational services they have been provided in comparison with their white peers. There is much work to be done to ensure that the public education system give every child a quality education, and we have to accept that many current obstacles are symptoms of the “solutions” we implemented a decade ago. But even if the education system was not itself contributing to the achievement gap, it must take a proactive role in supporting and developing the most marginalized students. As others have said, it’s not just a school problem, it’s a community problem. But if the education system can’t act and be seen as part of the community, the community can never be strong.

  5. Jim Mordecai 11 months ago11 months ago

    Do we have as a nation an education gap problem? Or is public education gap an efficient sorting mechanism for determining which socio-economic classes will graduates from K-12 public education having an opportunity for a job paying a living wage and/or with financing to pay for ever increasing cost for college that provides gate way to those living wage jobs? The rising cost of college, and the rising increase in children in poverty, indicates … Read More

    Do we have as a nation an education gap problem? Or is public education gap an efficient sorting mechanism for determining which socio-economic classes will graduates from K-12 public education having an opportunity for a job paying a living wage and/or with financing to pay for ever increasing cost for college that provides gate way to those living wage jobs?

    The rising cost of college, and the rising increase in children in poverty, indicates to me that America has an efficient sorting mechanism.

    The current popular notion, is that redistributing educational dollars giving priority to students from families of poverty, will be a reform that works or works better than past reforms. I don’t think so. There are not enough dollars being redistributed to compensate for the challenges of student poverty.

    And, although the rhetoric of redistribution effectiveness is bountiful, funding is not.

    Additionally, political problem of redistribution of education dollars is the poor don’t vote. So if the poor are felt to be a threat to those socio-economic classes that vote, funding for redistribution programs will dry up as soon as those classes feeling their entitlement to living wage jobs for their children is threatened. The Johnson administration War on Poverty, with its funding waning after the 80s, was in part political backlash by the voting classes.

    The shirking of the middle class that votes, make the likelihood sustained redistribution of education dollars is to be no more likely to materialize than the post-civil war promise of 20 acres and a mule.

  6. Zeev Wurman 11 months ago11 months ago

    This article is based either on false assumption -- that the gap hasn't changed much over the last 15 years or so -- or on incorrect data. If one looks at the high school CST math data disaggregated by minorities, one sees a clear and strong closing of the gaps between 2003 and 2013, the last year of the old standards.See the charts here: http://wurman.us/pa3/cst_gaps_over_time.pdf Both sets of chart represent the same data -- one the growth … Read More

    This article is based either on false assumption — that the gap hasn’t changed much over the last 15 years or so — or on incorrect data.

    If one looks at the high school CST math data disaggregated by minorities, one sees a clear and strong closing of the gaps between 2003 and 2013, the last year of the old standards.See the charts here: http://wurman.us/pa3/cst_gaps_over_time.pdf

    Both sets of chart represent the same data — one the growth of successful takers as a percent of the demographic cohort, one as increase since 2003. The reduction of the gap is clearly visible, as minorities improved at much faster rate than white students.

    I do believe that SBAC and Common Core undid much of that. Even in these charts one can see the beginning of trend reversal in 2013. EAP success rates also sharply dropped in 2014 as compared to 2013 (from 14% to 10% fully ready, and 46% to 41% conditionally ready). In fact the drop was sharpest, almost 50%, among the weaker kids who took only Algebra 2 by grade 11 (6% to 3% “ready” and 22% to 13% “conditional”) while the drop for those who took EAP after a course beyond Algebra 2 was less severe (22% to 17% ready, 66% to 65% conditional). Algebra 2 was always marginal for college readiness and hence the EAP success rate more sensitive to the quality of teaching. I believe this is an early warning of what is ahead of us with Common Core.

    So yes, the trend seems to be reversing and the gaps growing, but not because the 1997 strong content-based reform failed, but rather because we have replaced it with the less focused(!) Common Core and NGSS.

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 11 months ago11 months ago

      Wouldn’t you need to see the trends and trajectories for the years well before 2003 to determine the effect of specific policies?

  7. zane de arakal 11 months ago11 months ago

    New reforms will not work because socioeconomic status of students is a constant and there will always be second language problems. In 1962 there was an op ed in the LA Times citing socioeconomic status as a constant. Lastly, effecting statistically significant change with a mass population is basically impossible.

  8. Gary Ravani 11 months ago11 months ago

    It is too early to say if CCSS/LCFF/LCAP/SBAC will follow in the same path of failure as the standards and accountability movement. To the extent is is top-down it is like to be so. To the extent it relies on the good judgement of classroom professionals who are provided resources to collaborate and are given smaller classes, and again resources, to work with it will have a good chance of success. That is within … Read More

    It is too early to say if CCSS/LCFF/LCAP/SBAC will follow in the same path of failure as the standards and accountability movement. To the extent is is top-down it is like to be so. To the extent it relies on the good judgement of classroom professionals who are provided resources to collaborate and are given smaller classes, and again resources, to work with it will have a good chance of success. That is within that 33% of measured achievement that is determined by in-school factors. Then we get to the other 66%.

    The key factor in the “achievement gap” debate is that part of the “gap” that is present the day kids arrive at the Kindergarten door. That part linked to one of the industrialized world’s highest child poverty rates and owned by the US. Yet another example of US “exceptionalism?”

    It is somewhat disheartening to read statement after statement about the uselessness of having the US tackle the childhood poverty issue. There are plenty of thriving nations that have cut childhood poverty down to a 1/4 or less than the US rate and there is not one good reason, aside from societal moral lapse and political ideology, that the US can’t also do something about it.

  9. Taryn Ishida 11 months ago11 months ago

    Appreciate you covering racial and ethnic achievement gaps and the various reforms that are hopefully moving CA in the right direction. I’d love to see the SBAC data for Asian-Americans disaggregated by ethnic group. As Campaign for College Opportunity recently showed with their report on API’s in higher education (http://collegecampaign.org/portfolio/september-2015-the-state-of-higher-education-in-california-asian-american-native-hawaiian-pacific-islander-report/), splitting apart the “Asian” category reveals important disparities that we don’t want to mask.

  10. Don 11 months ago11 months ago

    All this discussion of efforts - efforts of teachers, efforts of districts, schools, the state, academia, but no discussion of the efforts of the individuals and their families who are failing. There isn't a government solution to the achievement gap. As long as we are barking up the wrong tree and placing blame on factors that are not the primary drivers of student achievement, there's no chance of targeting the real cause on underachievement. If … Read More

    All this discussion of efforts – efforts of teachers, efforts of districts, schools, the state, academia, but no discussion of the efforts of the individuals and their families who are failing. There isn’t a government solution to the achievement gap. As long as we are barking up the wrong tree and placing blame on factors that are not the primary drivers of student achievement, there’s no chance of targeting the real cause on underachievement. If you want a remedy, look to who succeeds and why.

  11. Doug McRae 11 months ago11 months ago

    This post assumes the Smarter Balanced scores are valid reliable and fair for all subgroup students, and thus the new scores are credible measures of achievement gaps between subgroups. That assumption just is not supported by the facts. The evidence is the 2015 Smarter Balanced scores are not equally valid reliable or fair for all subgroups, that underserved subgroups like low wealth students, English Learners, and Students with Disabilities were particularly affected by differential failure … Read More

    This post assumes the Smarter Balanced scores are valid reliable and fair for all subgroup students, and thus the new scores are credible measures of achievement gaps between subgroups. That assumption just is not supported by the facts. The evidence is the 2015 Smarter Balanced scores are not equally valid reliable or fair for all subgroups, that underserved subgroups like low wealth students, English Learners, and Students with Disabilities were particularly affected by differential failure to implement Common Core instruction and a lack of exposure to technology needed to perform on computer-administered tests. This evidence strongly suggests the achievement gaps measured by the 2015 Smarter Balanced scores are overstated, and once Common Core instruction is adequately implemented and those groups get the required exposure to computer-based instruction and testing methods, the gaps will be reduced. So, this post (as well as the speculation from experts) is based on data that is not a true measure of subgroup achievement, rather data that is contaminated by non-achievement factors.

    Looking forward, if one accepts the view that ELs and SWDs and SEDs have understated 2015 achievement scores due to differential contamination by non-achievement factors, as these factors are addressed the achievement “gap” will likely close to roughly the gaps measured by the prior STAR tests. What happens after that will be the answer to the question whether gaps are increasing, stable, or decreasing under Common Core instruction and valid reliable fair testing practices. The bottom line is the 2015 gaps represent little more than a shell game, essentially tanking the scores for underserved groups at the beginning of a new testing protocol to permit higher gains in the immediate years to follow (say at least for three years) with associated pats-on-the-back for “addressing the achievement gap.” Meanwhile, the underlying achievement gaps really haven’t changed. The true baseline data for Common Core instruction and Common Core tests will have to wait for (say) 2018 at best before we have credible data upon which to draw any conclusions regarding achievement gaps.

    Replies

    • Don 11 months ago11 months ago

      Doug, isn’t it also possible that the artificially low scores will remain low given the teacher turnover in impoverished schools and districts and the resultant need for annual reinvention of the Common Core instructional wheel, along with long- term problems in effectively teaching underperforming students the necessary technology skills, particularly at the lower grades?

      • Doug McRae 11 months ago11 months ago

        Don — Anything’s possible, but if conditions remain roughly the same for low performing subgroups then the artificially low initial scores will tend to increase over time to return to their more accurate prior level vis a vis other subgroups, as the influences for the initial artificial low scores fade away.

  12. Megan 11 months ago11 months ago

    Everybody reading this should listen to the recent This American Life series “The Problem We All Face.” Very eye opening.

  13. Fred Jones 11 months ago11 months ago

    Is it really the responsibility of schools to compensate for socioeconomic gaps, which are so highly correlated with education achievement gaps? Are schools capable of compensating for such extra-curricular variables, even if they were given substantially more resources? Our society cannot tolerate the idea of kids performing at different levels (especially when there's racial disparities), so it seems we are stuck placing demands on teachers, administrators and policymakers that may be unrealistic. Hence, the … Read More

    Is it really the responsibility of schools to compensate for socioeconomic gaps, which are so highly correlated with education achievement gaps? Are schools capable of compensating for such extra-curricular variables, even if they were given substantially more resources?

    Our society cannot tolerate the idea of kids performing at different levels (especially when there’s racial disparities), so it seems we are stuck placing demands on teachers, administrators and policymakers that may be unrealistic.

    Hence, the siren song of education reform will continue to be sung loudly, punctuated by wild swings in tempo and tone. I’m not sure how students of varying backgrounds and abilities will be able to keep up with these sudden transitions, nor how this will bring into harmony the symphony of varying instruments within our state’s diversified economic orchestra.

    But no matter … we’ll just demand students perform louder! They may be out of sync and off-tune, but at least we’ll all be making some noise!

    Replies

    • Scott Petri 11 months ago11 months ago

      Agree with Fred. Policymakers need to re-read Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron. Many ed policies overreach in their efforts to make us all equal instead of providing equal opportunity.

    • Laura Kohn 11 months ago11 months ago

      In short, YES. Until we can say with confidence and integrity that we are providing equal education opportunities for all students, schools, districts, educators and taxpayers do have responsibility for the achievement gap. Schools serving low income students of color are staffed with less experienced teachers, suffer from greater teacher turnover, provide fewer college prep classes and fewer out-of-school time opportunities. Low income students of color have lower access to quality preschool. The LCFF … Read More

      In short, YES.

      Until we can say with confidence and integrity that we are providing equal education opportunities for all students, schools, districts, educators and taxpayers do have responsibility for the achievement gap. Schools serving low income students of color are staffed with less experienced teachers, suffer from greater teacher turnover, provide fewer college prep classes and fewer out-of-school time opportunities. Low income students of color have lower access to quality preschool. The LCFF is helping to alleviate these differences, depending on how districts use their expanded budgets. But we still have a long way to go until we can rest on our laurels and attribute any remaining differences to poverty/families.

      • Fred Jones 11 months ago11 months ago

        So, Laura, is anything short of equal outcomes/performance by all students a failure of schools and policymakers?

  14. Ridgeley 11 months ago11 months ago

    It’s not about school reform, it’s about family and community reform. When entrenched, impoverished families begin to mimic the parenting of families who’ve overcome poverty, then we’ll see stronger academic skills in school.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 11 months ago11 months ago

      Rigidly: Great point. Since we are talking about the measured achievement of disadvantaged students here it will be up to those children to "mimic" the behaviors of their wealthier peers. Since the schools now are segregated as much or more so since the ruling on Brown v. Board, and since the alternative is enrollment at an apartheid system of charter schools, the disadvantaged school children will have little to no contact with middle-class peers to "mimic." Perhaps … Read More

      Rigidly:

      Great point. Since we are talking about the measured achievement of disadvantaged students here it will be up to those children to “mimic” the behaviors of their wealthier peers. Since the schools now are segregated as much or more so since the ruling on Brown v. Board, and since the alternative is enrollment at an apartheid system of charter schools, the disadvantaged school children will have little to no contact with middle-class peers to “mimic.”

      Perhaps the schools can manage regular screenings of “Leave to Beaver” or some other mythical model of American middle-class behaviors. That should be a workable “school reform strategy.”An alternative would be for the US to look at nations that have reduced childhood poverty to 3% to 5% and the seamless social service supports those nations provide for children and their parents. We can all just ignore the fact that the US has near the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, that is, around 22% to 25%. It’s all quite embarrassing you know.

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