- The dismal education disparities experienced by African American children has become an accepted fact of life in our community.
- Most efforts to remedy the education challenges are focused on schools and teachers.
- There is recognition that parental involvement and engagement by constructive adults in the lives of children is meaningful, but efforts to seriously ratchet up family and community involvement have been difficult to conceive and even more difficult to implement in a sustained fashion.
THE GAME CHANGERS
1. A clear definition of the daunting “achievement gap” has been delivered. The so-called achievement gap is not just one amorphous gap; but is a combination of 5 Gaps. Leadership, Teaching, Preparation, Time, Belief,
2. Applying this understanding of the causes of the disparate educational outcomes for African American students the Harvest Network of schools and Greater Friendship Academy have demonstrated the ability to have African American students meet and exceed state testing standards in reading and math.
3. While there is serious engagement around the teaching and leadership challenges of education; Stairstep Foundation and His Works United are ready to provide the missing link i.e. meaningful community engagement
Utilizing the African American Church network and the expertise of the most highly accomplished African American Educational enterprise in the twin cities (Harvest) we will engage the African American community to reinvigorate the culture that celebrates the educational efforts, possibilities and accomplishment by our youth. This development of social capital will be done through a metropolitan wide church and community based academic competition we call the Belief Bowl.
THE PREPARATION GAP: The achievement gap begins before children are old enough to enter school. Upon entering kindergarten, they show differences in personal and social development, in language and literacy, in mathematical thinking, as well as in the arts and physical development. Children in households with lower family income, and children whose parents had less education, tend to have lower school-readiness ratings. But school-readiness is not simply a matter of academics. It involves a child’s home environment, economic status, emotional and social development, health, and cultural identity. All are related to achievement in school. To resolve this issue, AALF/ELL believes that four changes are needed: access to high-quality, certified, early childhood education must be made available; family support systems must be ensured; community resources and social services must be brought into schools; and parents must get education and training.
THE BELIEF GAP: The beliefs and expectations of students, parents, teachers and the community all contribute to the achievement gap: students, parents, teachers and the community do not believe it can be closed until they see it done. Once the gap is closed in one school district, others will follow. Additionally, teachers’ expectations strongly influence students’ effort and performance. High expectations or pressure to learn ranks highly among school- level factors that impact student achievement.
To resolve this issue, AALF/ELL believes there must be a laser-like focus on student achievement and African American students must be offered more rigorous curriculum choices. Success stories must be widely publicized to dispel the myth that our children cannot succeed.
THE TIME GAP: Many of our children have fallen behind grade level. To successfully address this shortfall will take time; more time focused on learning during the school day, a longer school day and school year are necessary. This gap cannot be reduced without adequate time for teaching and learning. After- school and summer programming are also critical components of closing the time gap.
THE TEACHING GAP: The single most important factor contributing to student success is teaching excellence. Good teachers make good schools. Students taught by several effective teachers in a row soar, no matter what their family backgrounds, while students taught by just two ineffective teachers in a row rarely recover. Strong teaching is especially critical for children at risk, and highly effective teachers are most critical to those furthest behind.
To resolve this issue, AALF/ELL believes that: The best teachers must be placed where the greatest need exists; educators must be culturally competent; effective teacher evaluation and coaching must be implemented; and traditional teaching preparation must be transformed.
THE LEADERSHIP GAP: The impact of principals and school leaders on student outcomes is second only to that of teachers. School districts that have been most effective in closing the achievement gap are led by strong and effective district superintendents and school principals. Such leaders have applied proven and effective models of academic success.Closing the Leadership Gap necessitates the evaluation and professional development of school leaders to ensure they are familiar with and implementing best practices for success. Principals must also be able to choose their teachers.