Arkansas FORUM | 03/31/2008
Closing Arkansas' Achievement Gap
By: Bill Kopsky
"A new study, 'What is Arkansas Doing to Close the Achievement Gap?' identifies proven methods and next steps that could help Arkansas significantly close the achievement gap," says Bill Kopsky, executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.
"The study found that Arkansas can make the biggest gains by focusing on student health programs, high quality after school and summer programs, reducing class size in early grades, and increasing parental engagement and in the schools," says Kopsky in an article for the Arkansas Forum. "It also found that Arkansas has made progress, but can still do more to improve access to high-quality pre-school and improve teacher quality."
"But you don't have to wait for others to attack the gap," he states. "The mere act of parents organizing and becoming more involved in school decision-making has beneficial impacts on their children. Get involved and your kids will do better. Reading to young children makes a big difference. Supporting stronger families helps close the achievement gap. Churches, community groups, neighborhood associations, and families all have a big role to play."
"There are also a lot of things schools can do with or without additional help from the state to close the gap," he adds. "Schools are already receiving funds to attack the gap. That money could be spent to lower class sizes or provide extra bonuses to attract and keep high performing teachers in low-income and rural areas with the highest needs. They could offer after-school programs or health and social services with the funds targeted directly at students in poverty."
"At the state level, Arkansas will need to provide greater support to implement some of the methods proven to close the achievement gap," Kopsky says. "The current amount of funding available to attack the gap is surely inadequate so we must ensure that funds are spent wisely."
"Parents, teachers, students, community members and lawmakers must take action in their families and communities, in their schools and at the state level to attack the gap," Kopsky concludes. "State policymakers should be congratulated for the progress so far. Now we must bear down. Every child in the 'land of opportunity' deserves a fair shot at a great education."
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT/GUEST EDITORIAL
Arkansas has made some good moves to improve education in recent years, but some children and communities are still far behind.
The achievement gap afflicts low-income and minority children and is a major cause of decreased economic mobility for their future.
Arkansas can make the biggest gains in closing the achievement gap by focusing on student health programs, high quality after school and summer programs, reducing class size in early grades, and parental involvement in the schools.
Parents, teachers, students, community members and lawmakers must take action in their families and communities, in their schools and at the state level to attack the gap. We all share some responsibility for creating solutions. Every child in the land of opportunity deserves a fair shot at a great education.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the Arkansas FORUM. The Forum is an educational organization that provides the media with the views of state experts on major public issues. Letters should be sent to the Forum, P.O. Box 2494, Little Rock, AR 72203. (03/31/2008)