Friday, March 21, 2008

Closing the Achievement Gap - Freakonomics Discussion

Freakonomics features a discussion on closing the achievement gap. Caroline Hoxby, Daniel Hurley, Richard J. Murnane, and Andrew Rotherham comment on the solution.

Of course, as Caroline Hoxby comments, we need to focus on teachers. Recruiting great teachers, making places where these great teachers will want to work and continue to work, and rewarding teachers for their work.

I like what Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, says about enhancing visibility of the problem. This is a huge issue, we need to bring this education crisis- a civil rights issue - the the forefront of our politics.

To close the achievement gap, we need to close the gaps in our schools--by desegregating them. Richard J. Murnane, professor of education and society at Harvard comments on focusing on the reversal of Supreme Court decisions that have maintained the segregation of American schools. Jonathan Kozol's Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America is a great read that talks about the need for a movement to desegregate our schools.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge that improving our education system is not going to be easy. We're not going to improve achievement, increase graduation rates, and encourage students to go on to higher education by simply testing them twice as much, or by simply doubling the salaries of our teachers.

We've got to realize that these are complicated issues. We must create schools that are student-focused, putting transformation and problem-posing at the center of education rather than continuing the banking model that is so widely unquestioned and accepted. We now focus on student "achievement." What if we changed this to "continued curiousity" or "knowledge seeking" or "meaning making." We can't be afraid for our students to ask questions about the injustices and gaps that exists, for them to get angry, and for them to make changes. This is how real change will happen- that is how we will close the gap.

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