How to close the gap?

The National Journal’s question of the week was ‘How can we close the achievement gap?’

The most important thing we can do to narrow the persistent gaps in achievement and attainment is make good on the good school promise: every American family deserves access to at least one good public school and every student deserves a good teacher.

NCLB had these intentions but fell short in large part because states failed to make the promise real; thousands of struggling schools have received only limited improvement efforts and chronic failure has been accepted far too long. Duncan’s encouragement to replace or transform the worst 5% of American schools is a step in the right direction. State leaders like Paul Pastorek have worked aggressively to fix or replace the lowest performing schools. Perhaps a push and a check from Duncan will encourage more state leaders to follow Pastorek’s lead.

To make real the good school promise we need vigilant advocacy. EdTrust, the historical leader in gap advocacy, has been joined by the Education Equality Project and state groups like ConnCAN. These groups are sweating the technical issue of standards, resource allocation, and equitable choice. But more importantly, advocacy connects policy to community. EEP, ConnCAN, and Parent Revolution are mobilizing historically underserved communities to demand that the ‘good school promise’ be made real in every neighborhood. As Kevin Chavous says, we need to make the promise real “by all means necessary.”

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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