Closing the Achievement Gap

MissouriOnly within the last two decadeshave states and districts reportedstudent achievement disaggregatedby student categories. This reportinghas highlighted the difference in studentachievement, thereby making evident thefailure of the schools to educate everychild. A recent article in The New YorkTimes (Sam Dillon, “School Law SpursEfforts to End Minority Gap,” 2005) evenreported on the many efforts being madein schools to close the achievement gap ofminority students. While education stakeholdersrecognize the importance of thisissue, many still find it difficult to makeand sustain progress in terms of studentachievement. Although numerous stateshave looked at test scores based onethnicity in the past, the No Child LeftBehind Act (NCLB) places an additionalemphasis on states, districts, and schoolsto address this issue and report on theprogress being made.

Prior to the advent of educational technology,educators would, ideally, assesswhere students were, provide remediationactivities, and ensure that students hadaccess to alternative methods of teachingand learning. Today’s technology makesassessment more precise and returns testresults faster. It can also create and store avast amount of exciting and interestingremediation activities. Finally, technologycan involve students in alternativemethods of teaching and learning tailoredto the individual learning styles and standardsmost appropriate for each student.


STATE EXAMPLES OF CLOSING THEACHIEVEMENT GAP

West Virginia’s Basic Skills/Computer Education program. In 2003, researcher DaleMann cited a direct correlation between pupil performance and technology ininstruction through West Virginia’s Basic Skills/Computer Education program. Thestudy found that while per capita income had not changed from 1991 to 1998, theinfusion of technology was the single factor that accounted for the state movingfrom 33rd to 11th in student achievement. In a similar study, Mann found that thecost of advancing students one unit in reading by decreasing the class size was $636,while the cost of using technology to achieve the same result was $86. So, there’s nodoubt that technology provides a key opportunity to increase student achievement.

Louisiana’s Online Algebra I course. Since Algebra I is often a predictor ofsuccess in high school and beyond, Louisiana implemented an online Algebra Icourse to provide additional opportunities for student achievement. Preliminaryevaluations indicate that students in the online course with similar pre-test scoresare showing more significant achievement gains compared to the control group asindicated below:

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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