Education Reform Highlights Scoring Gap; Schools Study Lag in Minority Students

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

Education Reform Highlights Scoring Gap; Schools Study Lag in Minority Students


Byline: George Archibald, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The No Child Left Behind Act is forcing many schools to examine why there is such a large achievement gap between white and minority students, according to a new national study.

The federal law requires that schools set targets for "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) by students and report the results by ethnicity, income, sex and other factors.

It "is the beginning of a truth-telling process," said Ross Wiener, policy director of the Education Trust, which conducted the study.

"Much of the angst concerning this law comes from the fact that AYP is identifying schools with large achievement gaps that were previously designated by their states as being successful based on overall averages," Mr. Wiener said.

"AYP is forcing these schools to examine why some groups of students are performing far below state proficiency levels while others are exceeding them," he said.

The study was based on initial state reports of AYP to the U.S. Education Department that documented fourth-graders' reading and mathematics ability.

In addition to reporting the percentage of students who test proficient in reading and math, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to break apart, or "disaggregate," the test results for white, black, Hispanic, Asian, low-income, handicapped and low-English-proficient students, as well as boys and girls.

Schools that steadily fail to show sufficient academic progress are targeted for added federal funding to pay for private tutoring of students, transportation costs for children allowed to transfer to other schools, and eventual state takeover and reorganization if they still don't improve.

The Education Trust, a project established by the American Association of Higher Education in 1990 to foster school reform, examined AYP results in Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Washington state.

The AYP results are providing more accurate information about school and student performance, the group's report said. "It is identifying shockingly large achievement gaps in schools that were previously designated by their states as 'successful.' It is recognizing the good work of previously low-performing schools that have made significant progress in raising achievement for disadvantaged children."

George Washington Middle School in Alexandria was cited as a school with a huge achievement gap among white, black, and Hispanic students who did not make "adequate yearly progress," even though the school received full accreditation under Virginia's state accountability system for the 2002-03 school year. …

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