Desperately seeking direction: how educators are closing the achievement gap

Desperately seeking direction: how educators are closing the achievement gap – To Our Readers

Sonny Da Marto

Dear Colleagues:

I am so pleased to be able to start off the school year with a focus on closing the achievement gap–the most important issue school leaders face, especially at a time when our resources are stretched past their limits.

We begin this issue of Leadership magazine with an article by Jeanie Cash and Frank Infusino on Chino Valley USD’s efforts to close the gap. When their reforms began four years ago, “the raw material was in place,” they write, but “schools were searching aimlessly for improvement … They had no central direction, no guidance and little support.” Now, their schools have the highest test scores in the county, thanks to the creation of a district support team committed to helping each school improve while moving the district toward synchronized reform.

Any discussion about closing the achievement gap must take a look at high poverty districts that have improved achievement across multiple schools, grade levels and racial groups. On page 12 we report the findings of such a study, conducted by the nonprofit Learning First Alliance. The study reveals “a strikingly similar set of strategies used across these districts,” including creating a framework of instructional supports and redistributing leadership roles.” Some other keys to their success include training principals to become instructional leaders, and finding a balance between district-level support and school-level flexibility to innovate.

In this issue, readers will also learn more about:

* How to achieve alignment between standards and assessments to effectively guide student learning.

* How to manage the information flow necessary to implement No Child Left Behind.

* What small, rural districts can do to ensure that NCLB doesn’t leave their students even further behind.

* Strategies educators can use to increase parent involvement.

Columnist George Manthey writes on page 17 that “the achievement gap for any individual need not exist–and cannot be predicted.” With this issue, we offer undeniable evidence that this is true.

Sincerely,

COPYRIGHT 2003 Association of California School Administrators

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group