Leading Educators Call for a New Direction for Education Reform, Focused on the Opportunity Gap
For more than a generation, policymakers have intensely focused on the achievement gap, the difference between primarily low-income and minority children compared to their peers on standardized tests and other outputs. In doing so, they have neglected the basic truth that achievement follows from opportunities to learn, according to the authors of a new book and campaign launched today, called Closing the Opportunity Gap. Students’ learning and academic performance will, the authors explain, only improve when state and school district officials make a commitment to addressing the nation’s opportunity gap.
“Quite simply, children learn when they are supported with high expectations, quality teaching and deep engagement, and made to feel that they are entitled to good schooling; the richer those opportunities, the greater the learning. When those opportunities are denied or diminished, lower achievement is the dire and foreseeable result,” explained Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter co-editor of Closing the Opportunity Gap.
Campaign leaders point out that for more than two decades, predating the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” legislation, education policy and school improvement efforts have given short shrift to capacity building. Policies arising out of the so-called school accountability movement have instead used student testing to identify achievement gaps and to create strong incentives to improve test scores.
Among the many areas where opportunity can be created and the gap narrowed, according to the book’s expert authors:
- Provide High-Quality Early Childhood Education.
- End Segregation in Housing, Schools and Classrooms.
- Provide Crucial Funding and Resources.
- Provide More and Better Learning Time.
- Focus on Childhood Health.
- Focus on Teacher Experience and Supports.
- Provide Access to libraries and the Internet.
- Provide Tutoring.
- Create Safe and Well-Maintained School Environments.
- Improve Policies on Student Discipline.
- Understand Student Cultures and Schooling.
- Change the Focus of Testing and Accountability.
- Address the Needs of Language Minorities.