Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

National Urban Alliance Professional Development Model for Improving Achievement in the Context of Effective Schools Research

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

National Urban Alliance Professional Development Model for Improving Achievement in the Context of Effective Schools Research

Article excerpt

The National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA) has engaged in a wide variety of activities, such as instructional audits and advocating for change, to help school districts improve their policies and practices with respect to enhancing student performance. The central activity in most collaborations with districts has been to implement the NUA's Professional Development Model for improving students' comprehension, content performance, and thinking skills. Implementation of the model involves workshops and institutes that emphasize instructional strategies to improve students' comprehension and literacy, consultant visits to and demonstrations conducted at participating schools, and leadership training. This paper describes implementation and results in several locations, and discusses NUA activities and approaches in the context of research on schools that have been effective in the education of disadvantaged students.

There are numerous reasons cited in the literature as to why an achievement gap exists between African American children and other children of color, and White children. The most prevalent are: (a) the lack of political will by stakeholders to close the gap (Hilliard, 1991); (b) a lack of belief in the capacity of children to learn (Delpit, 1995; Kohn, 1998); (c) a belief that intelligence is innate and fixed and a conclusion that the educational disparity is a fact of nature (Singham, 1998); (d) the gap is a result of economic disparity (Singham, 1998); and (e) the existence of a cultural gap between teachers and children of color which causes missed opportunities for learning (Delpit, 1995). All but one of the reasons for the achievement gap makes some sense and by the nature of the problem cited, in turn, suggests courses of action. Sadly, however, the courses of action often proposed to address the achievement gap for African American children take students out of the mainstream and onto dead-end educational pathways. Hilliard (1998) reflects on the following:

The educational and socialization strategies being proposed for African children in the United States reveal a system ... [which supports a] ... widespread use of bootcamps for the delinquent and violence-prone; direct instruction for low-achieving students; special education for those who act out and who were not nurtured during their early schooling; compensatory education and minimum competency schools to help the masses meet the basics; vouchers and choice in order to give the affluent a way to take care of their own and to ignore other people's children. (p. 17)

The position taken by the authors in this article is that there are many success stories about dramatic achievement for children of color cited in individual schools throughout this country (Hughes, 1995; Sanders & Rivers, 1996; Sizemore, Brossard, & Harrigan, 1982). The simple matter is this, many schools always have and continue to reach traditional low-performing students, and raise their performance to levels beyond average and even to excellence (Haycock, 1998; Joyce, Showers, Scanlon, & Schnaublet, 1998; Schmoker, 1999). They do this without mysterious methods, programs or equipment. They do it mainly by exposing the poor and ethnic minorities to the same quality of instruction usually reserved for the more affluent and/or the dominant groups in the society (Kozol, 1991). Why does the puzzle persist in the face of the fact that there is evidence of dramatic school achievement for poor children? We believe that an often-cited quote of Ronald Edmonds (1982) provides the answer, "We can whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children, whose education is of importance to us" [italics added]. We also believe it is a matter of will.

The challenge is how we as a nation support not only success in the individual schools reported above, but success in entire school districts (Butler & Kahle, 1997; Resnick & Hall, 1998). …

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