Achievement gaps refer to the unequal distribution of educational results and benefits. Most often the achievement gap reference is made in conjunction with lower income households not performing as well as households with higher incomes. I choose to not focus on achievement gaps (a perceived negative) and instead focus on proficiency for all and excellence for many (a positive). Three strategies I strive for:
- All students reaching proficiency.
- Many students reaching excellence.
- All student groups represented in the excellence bracket.
Whether or not a child learns to read cannot be left to chance. MPSD has little or no control over the students sent to the district nor quality of pre-school literacy experiences prior to arrival; therefore, the district must focus on the factors that are in our control. For all students to read at or above grade level by the end of Grade 3, according to professor Lynn Canady from the University of Virginia, we must:
- Significantly increase instructional time for literacy in the early grades.
- Reflect this increased time in the master schedule to include all aspects of competent literacy program delivery.
- Build collective capacity of teachers to teach early reading by using literacy teams, typically guided by a highly competent literacy coach.
- Provide instruction in homogeneous small groups focused on identified skill needs.
- Provide targeted, intensified instruction in all RTI Tiers with a laser focus on Tier I.
- Establish targets to guide instruction for early readers beginning Day 1 of kindergarten.
- Establish a literacy monitoring, management system for each student entering kindergarten; this monitoring system is critical for students entering with multiple literacy deficits.
We have to accelerate the growth of those that are behind. For children who enter school with below average language development, a one-year gain in reading achievement for each year in school is not enough to “catch up.” To attain the Proficient level by the beginning of fourth grade, we must double or triple rates of reading growth in kindergarten and first grade; and by the end of third grade, we must expect six years of growth in a four-year span.
To accelerate literacy learning, schools must significantly increase both the amount of time and the quality of instruction offered to students. Schools can organize trained teams to provide small-group literacy instruction within their master schedules. Spending additional funds on quality summer school literacy instruction may be necessary for schools to reach this goal.
Historically elementary schools have been organized as if all teachers were equal in delivery of quality literacy instruction; yet, we know that teacher variability is great. A quality literacy teacher or coach at each grade level coupled with an emphasis of writing non-fiction will increase proficiency rates in all subgroups in all subject areas and close the achievement gap.