The achievement gap is an issue that prompts school leaders to find ways to implement strategies that will create equity. According to Cambron-McCabe & McCarthy (2011), “We take the students who have less to begin with and then systematically give them less in school. The differences show up in the curriculum taught, the resources spent, how teachers are assigned, and achievement expected” (p. 201). As our school populations become more diverse it is important that we seek opportunities to learn about students’ cultures and background knowledge that will facilitate us in adapting curriculum to meet the needs of all students. It is important that teachers take time to understand the multiple factors that influence a child’s education. Cambron-McCabe & McCarthy (2011) states, “Blaming school problems on children’s characteristics, lack of resources, politics, societal conditions, and myriad other issues simply incapacitates our efforts to achieve substantive transformation of schools” (p. 206).
Currently opportunity gaps for our students include limited opportunities for students to access culturally relevant curriculum, and lack of resources and communication with families. There needs to be a greater knowledge of many cultures, traditions, learning styles, and student needs in order to close the achievement gap and support students’ development. According to Cambron-McCabe & McCarthy (2011), school leaders need to have a critical perspective that asks these questions:
“What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What do we value? Why do we value what we do? How are our values evident or not evident in our practice? How is what we’re doing affecting all students? Is what we’re doing privileging one group over another? Is what we’re doing working for all students, why or why not? Are our practices transparent? Is our leadership transparent?” (p. 205)
The article, “Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System” (Flores & Sechrist, 2010) suggests that in order to develop our competence some strategies include facilitating parent and community involvement and enhancing the competence of teachers and the cultural relevance of curriculum and instruction. It may be useful to make closing the achievement gap part of the school improvement process and look at innovative school models that have shown success. “Synthesis of the Recommendations from the 2008 Achievement Gap Studies” (2009) suggests strategies for enhancing the cultural competence of teachers. It is important that teachers gain knowledge of ethnic groups, cultures, and histories and include this information in instruction. Teachers should initiate positive relationships with families and expect success for all students by providing high expectations and rich content.
Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee. (2009). Synthesis of the Recommendations from the 2008 Achievement Gap Studies. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://www.k12.wa.us/cisl/pubdocs/Synthesis2008Recommendations.pdf
Cambron-McCabe, N. & McCarthy, M. (2011). Educating School Leaders for Social Justice In E. Hilty (Ed.) Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education (pp. 195-210). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. (Chapter 20).
Flores, M., & Sechrist, C. (2010). A Report by the Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee. Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://www.k12.wa.us/Cisl/pubdocs/AgapLegReport2010.pdf