ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Larocque, M. (2007). Closing the achievement gap: The experience of a middle school. The Clearing House, 80, 157 – 161.

The state of Florida uses the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to grade schools on an A – F scale. This study involved a Title I middle school in Florida that closed the achievement gap. Larocque operationalizes achievement gap as a school’s grade according to Florida’s accountability structure. She and colleagues administered three questionnaires to school staff and parents to identify the principal’s leadership style, to allow parents input, and to assess the effectiveness of the school’s use of data. The purpose of the study was to identify the factors that contributed to closing the achievement gap. The school moved from a D to B in three years. Larocque and associates attributed this improvement to the principal’s involving all stakeholders accountable as well as allowing all stakeholders to behave actively in decision-making. In addition, the principal was an instructional leader who used data to help guide instruction. Teachers and the principal collaborated regarding all aspects of school operations. Moreover, the principal established a welcoming, culturally attuned learning environment, taking explicit actions to involve parents and community members in the school and to help build teachers’ cultural competence. Finally, the principal acquired resources from multiple sources and used these resources to support instruction and to improve achievement.

???   The author of this article operationalizes “achievement gap” in terms of the grading structure in Florida. Do you consider Florida’s grading system a valid or appropriate barometer of achievement?

???   The notion of “achievement gap” is highly contested by some stakeholders. Some suggest that the typical contextualization along racial lines; specifically the gap between Black and White students, ignores other key factors. What are your thoughts about the achievement gap? 

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2 responses to “ACHIEVEMENT GAP

  1. I find operationalizing “achievement gap” in terms of Florida’s A-F grading structure quite problematic. When a school earns a “C”, what does that mean in terms of student achievement? From which measures (surely standardized) is student achievement analyzed before those numbers are submitted to the DOE for school grading? Are these particular student achievement measures (especially for students with low SES, minority students, and students with disabilities) even legitimate when assessing the true skills and abilities of students, or when defining the “achievement gap”? It is my opinion that there exists much oversimplification and overgeneralization when attempting to get a clear picture of student achievement through a school’s assigned letter grade.

  2. Ann,
    You’ve hit on something quite important; i.e., that there is more dimension to student achievement than test scores and the subsequent school grade. Because the FCAT is based on the SSS, I believe that it should be “part” of the picture for evaluating students’ achievement gains. However, I agree with you that it in no way provides an accurate assessment of the gap between majority and minority students. Even when looking at gains regarding the SSS, other factors such as teacher effectiveness come into play. There’s really no way to determine if children have been taught the standards, or if as so many teachers feel compelled to do, have been taught how to take the test. Part of the dilemma concerning the achievement gap is that the gap stems from gaps in the curricula, especially for poor, minority, and students with disabilities. Another factor is that there is no correlation between the school’s grade and AYP. The waters are quite muddy when it comes to ways to accurately evaluate closing the achievement gap aside from looking solely at data from “standardized” tests.

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