February 03, 2012 21:39 Age: 6 yrs

How Does Achievement First Close the Achievement Gap? What Have We Learned?

Category: Doug McCurry, News, Home

There are two ways to react to the stark statistics about the achievement gap: despair and excuses, or hope and action. Unfortunately, until recently, many have chosen the former. In fact, most of the educational community relied on the most famous piece of educational research in history, James Coleman's famous 1966 report, to let themselves off the hook. Coleman found a correlation between socioeconomic status and student achievement: poor, minority kids did worse than affluent, white kids. The dominant educational paradigm became, therefore, that "those kids" can't learn.

For years, politicians routinely make excuses for their city's low test scores, repeatedly saying that one just can't expect the scores in low-income communities to be as good as those in affluent – or even middle-class – ones. In one issue of Forbes magazine over a decade ago, the editor wrote that we cannot expect the sons and daughters of dishwashers and janitors to have the same academic achievement as the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers because intelligence is "largely inherited."

The good news for the country is that this line of thinking is coming under increasing assault, and Achievement First completely rejects this line of thinking. Instead of making excuses for why urban students can't learn, America must simply do a better job teaching urban students. Working on school reform issues for over a decade, the leaders of Achievement First have learned a great deal about how to close the achievement gap. Achievement First’s core beliefs inform our approach and suggest clear actions for us to take. The "top 10" beliefs are summarized below:

1."Those Kids" CAN Learn
2. Leadership Matters - Mightily
3. Teachers Are More Important Than Curricula ...
4. ... But Some Curricular Are Better Than Others
5. "Mere Mortals" Not "Superhumans"
6. An Unwavering Focus on Student Achievement
7. Interim Assessments and the Strategic Use of Data
8. One Hundred 1% Solutions
9. Serve ALL Urban Kids
10. Sweat the Small Stuff

Over the next few months, we will share more details about these lessons and the impact that they have had on our scholars, teachers and communities.