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Mom Congress Challenge – Closing the Achievement Gap

The Parenting Group

This week our 2010 Mom Congress delegates weighed in on ways big and small that we can work together to close the achievement gap.

I believe that a big part of closing the achievement gap will come from volunteers within the community.  Sometimes all that a student needs (especially the younger ones) is a little extra reading or math tutoring.  If a child is given the opportunity to work with a really good volunteer during lunch or after school, they gain the extra time that they need to really succeed.  These volunteers not only help teach the student how to read or do math, but a volunteer can also serve as a role model and give a child a much-needed boost to their self-esteem.  With a little extra help, these children can learn that they have just as much potential as the smartest kids in their class. ~Heather Jack – Massachusetts Delegate 2010


I recently had an honor of attending a luncheon with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and heard her say; "Until we solve the structural problems that make an equal education available in public and private institutions, we will not be able to reach diversity in society.” This rang so true to me as a mother and as an Educational Consultant.

The main obstacle to closing the achievement gap is that NCLB is mostly concerned with the bare minimum of competencies. In a day to day way we can encourage our teachers to find ways to teach beyond just the test; we can look for fun, educational activities for kids to do outside of the classroom and work in conjunction with other parents to get kids to participate. Get with the parents of your child's friends (or other kids in her class) and take turns doing educational activities/outings with them. {after school, weekends, snow days......}

We must work together to move this bar higher even if in baby steps. We need a Federal Definition of Mastery of Skill. Once a child has mastered a skill, why is it that he or she cannot move on? They must sit for repeated drill, teaching to the test or at best..... busy work.

One other important thing is letting our state and federal representatives at all levels of government know that we expect them to make education a priority. We cannot allow education funding to be cut and think that this won't catch up to us in the near future. We need to make sure that our elected officials know that we do not support cutting funding to our schools. In the more long term, we should encourage our representatives to draft and pass a more equitable funding plan for our schools than the current property-tax system. If we want to close the achievement gap, we need more equitable funding for our schools--and for the present, that means more support and funding for schools and districts that are lagging. The system of funding schools with property taxes is inequitable and instrumental in supporting the achievement gap.

Together we can have a system that works. Alone we suffer 80% failing schools by September 2011. ~Melissa Bilash – Pennsylvania Delegate 2010


Here is a resource I use from the State of MN to help educate others on the Achievement Gap:

1. Invest in early learning programs for children from birth through kindergarten.

High-quality early childhood programs not only boost student success but save the state money by preventing future problems.

  • Expand early childhood health and development screening to include educational needs and factors that may affect learning.
  • Coordinate early learning programs within the Minnesota Department of Education to ensure all children have access to services.
  • Require school districts to provide all-day, every-day kindergarten for all students and to offer or provide access to quality early childhood education from birth through kindergarten.

2. Require school districts to create plans to enhance parent and community involvement in the schools.

Parent involvement is essential to student success. Plans must include:

  • Home visits to students’ families, parent education, and services to accommodate families, including translators and transportation.
  • Flexible schedules to meet families’ needs.
  • Coordination with community organizations.
  • Delivery of needed services to families within school buildings.

3. Provide training, planning time and other support for teachers.

Quality professional development and a positive learning climate are critical to effective teaching and student success.

  • Provide time for teachers to work together with data provided by the district to improve instruction of students.
  • Train teachers in effective outreach and family support, and set aside coordinated planning time for teachers to work together on the needs of students.
  • Require districts to address equity in their discipline policies and to adopt a Safe Schools for All policy.
  • Require districts to adopt minimum school staffing standards to maintain a class size ratio of 18 students per licensed teacher and ratios of 250 students per counselor, 400 students per social worker, 750 regular students per school nurse and 1,000 students per psychologist

~Chanda Kropp – Minnesota Delegate 2010


My mom was a teacher who taught me to read at an early age. She made me feel super smart and that confidence carried me all the way through college! In all reality, I was very average, but her encouragement and belief in me was more than just a magic feather in my hat. When I THOUGHT I could do something, I was actually able to DO it! Parents, you can be the same motivation! And, if you see another child who may not be getting that positive support at home or in the classroom, don't underestimate what an encouraging comment, note or even a high five from you can mean to him or her. Don't be afraid or worry that it isn't 'your place.' Only good things can come of your extra efforts!  ~Jamie Pearce – Idaho Delegate 2010