Closing the Achievement Gap: The Pursuit of Perfection
Our current academic achievement levels are just the tip of the iceberg. Educators are in a constant chase of perfection, as we seek to maximize students’ learning. The massive barrier to perfection is the evasive Achievement Gap, which continues to persist across generations. The most academically underperforming students are categorized as subgroups (African-American, Latino, Special Education and students in poverty). There is not one clear solution to deep-dive the iceberg, the solution will require a clear focus on establishing learning conditions and robust practices. The Achievement Gap can only narrow once schools make an effort to address the culture and climate conditions for learning, coupled with consistent student engagement practices. A two-pronged approach, such as this, can yield higher than average results for ALL students. Below are clear action steps of the two-pronged approach.
Let’s Go BIG!: Closing the Achievement Gap comes down to three essential culture and climate conditions:
1. B- Belonging- It can not be stated enough, school and classroom learning conditions have to be caring and inviting. The learners have to feel connected to the school and their teachers. Most schools that excel at this have a “family type” of relationship with the students and parents. Some schools believe that personalized relationships with students and families are “the make or break” aspects of their school culture.
This feeling of belonging is important because it leads students to personalize and engage with the academic content. When students feel like they belong in the organization, the levels of efficacy and learning expectations increase tremendously.
2. I-Intensity- students believe that learning is more meaningful and engaging when classrooms stay busy in a meaningful way. In these classrooms, the teachers set the “minute to minute learning pace.” Time on task becomes a respected asset by the students. In these high intense learning environments, there is zero down-time and the learners often say “it’s so fun and time flies in that class.” Industriousness becomes the transformational norm for learning.
3. G-Grit- failure at a task is part of the learning process. Teachers often provide various explanations of content when learners are confused or lack mastery of the content. Reteaching in order to clarify students’ confusing is a key aspect of resiliency and industriousness. Not giving up on complicated tasks and finding different ways to solve problems are essential skills in fortifying personal Grit.
Once the culture and climate conditions are established, consistent student practices must occur. The Common Core State Standards are encouraging teachers what content to teach, but lack clarity on specific performance based assessment skills learners should master. Teachers often refer to this as the “how” in the learning process. The “how” becomes the learning tasks students are asked to demonstrate in action. Students must create real world solutions for current or unknown problems. These learner practices are manifested in the following 6 research-based learning strategies:
The 6-Pack: Performance Based Assessment Skills
1. Interview and Research
2. Persuasive and Creative Writing
3. Point of View Debate
4. Digital Graphic Organizers
5. Multi-Media Presentations
6. Oral Communication and Speech