Teachers College Panel Discusses Closing the Achievement Gap for Students
A recent panel discussion at Teachers College outlined the evidence-based research on closing the achievement gap between the wealthiest and poorest students in the U.S., and what can be done to begin shrinking this gap.
“We wanted nothing less than to develop a roadmap for closing the gap,” said Dr. Susan Fuhrman, the president of Teachers College.
Michael Rebell, a professor of law and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said that the U.S. has the largest percentage of students in poverty of all industrialized nations. “We don’t have an education crisis in this country,” he said. “We have a crisis of poverty.”
“What we’ve got to do is bring those at the bottom way up,” he said, and the way to do that is to move from the research stage to practical policy change on a large-scale basis.
Programs such as Say Yes to Education, which worked with the school districts in Cincinnati and Syracuse, N.Y., showed that streamlining resources, making sure students had access to support services and focusing students’ sights on higher education led to increased high school graduation rates, said Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the president of Say Yes to Education, Inc.
Rebell asserts, with legal precedent to back him up, that all children in the U.S. have a Constitutional right to a comprehensive educational opportunity. The Campaign for Educational Equity, of which Rebell is the executive director, spent years researching and writing a set of papers that answer the questions of what works to bridge the gap, how much it costs and what the benefits to implementing the changes will be for the community.
To implement the range of services, it’s estimated that New York State would have to spend an additional $4,750 per student, per year. While this may seem like an unreasonable sum, Rebell said that a team of economists did an analysis that shows for every dollar invested, the state would get double the money back.
Schmitt-Carey agreed that framing this issue as an economic development driver will help get the community on board to support the projects. An increase in enrollment leads to increased home values and more tax revenue.
She added that by doing the early intervention of making sure children have support to get through school, the cost of social services is reduced in the future.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that when children are engaged in activities, the school becomes the center of the community and people come back to the public schools.
“There’s no question that we can do better with the resources we have,” said Dr. John King, Jr., the commissioner of education for New York State. #