Closing the education-opportunity-achievement gap
It appears to me, the task of closing the education gap is two-fold, consisting of ‘Inside Jobs’ and ‘Outside Jobs.’
The ‘Inside job’ would be everything that happens in the classroom in a school in a district.
The ‘Outside job’ would be everything else – community, parents, not-for-profits, foundations, health, transportation, PTA, unions, politicians, legislators, city-county-state government, business, and like that.
For the Inside Job, the best expression I have come across is M. Night Shyamalan Foundation’s recent book, I Got Schooled, which very clearly says that closing the gap is a multi-faceted, ‘systems’ challenge, requiring a multi-faceted ‘systems’ response.
Money for the Inside job comes mostly through property taxes, oil-gas fund, and equalization formulas. A perennial problem is, arguments for employing these funds tend to use one-dimensional single-issue practices, based on favored views of lobbyists or organizations for a particular ideology, concept, or anecdote – and interdisciplinary integrated ‘systems’ solutions get buried in this narrow focusing.
Many, if not most, single-issue solutions have been tried once or many times over the years. Many are still being supported or proposed. However, truckloads of data from multiple points of view reveal very little change has occurred over the last 30-40 years.. Indeed, the Shyamalan Foundation found that implementing single practices without other important integrating components consistently produced dismal results.
Over time, institutions too often and too easily fall into status quo thinking-acting-arguing, and many (most) substantive changes come from outside such institutions. I believe Shyamalan Foundation’s I Got Schooled could only have been written from outside the educational institution.
In their search for a systems-type solution for closing the education gap, the Foundation required that the practices had to:
- focus solely ‘inside’ the classroom/school
- exclude ‘Outside’ the classroom influences exactly because they are outside the control of the classroom/school;
- demonstrate substantial ‘effect size,” that is, they must produce demonstrable, measurable, and significant results; and,
- be scalable for implementation
And therein lies the power and utility of their findings.
They identified five practices that, working together in a systems context, satisfy all these criteria:
- Effective teachers – dropping poor; hiring good; why it’s important; how to do it
- Leadership – how it’s important; what it looks like; how to do it
- Feedback – frequency, consistency, teacher/principal usability – all critical
- Smaller (high) schools – this turbo-charges the other practices
- More time in school – by the time children of color or low income reach third grade they are so far behind it’s virtually impossible to catch up
If you don’t have time to read the whole book, these five practices are summarized at tommilesabq.com.
For the Outside Job, the best expressions I’ve come across in Albuquerque are the ABC Community School Partnership and Mission: Graduate. The ABC Community School Partnership is tasking itself with:
- Working in the Early Child to K-12 and non-graduated adult domains;
- Identifying ‘inside needs’ that can be addressed by ‘outside’ organizations, programs, and resources;
- Creating coalitions and collaboratives for matching proper resources with proper students-parents-teachers-administrators in proper times and places;
- Using schools as hubs for coordinating and delivering services and resources;
- Creating and funding full-time action positions called ‘Community School Coordinators’ to foster and coordinate matching-up ‘inside needs’ with ‘outside’ programs and resources.
Mission: Graduate is focused on ‘who is not graduating and why,’ for Middle-School and High-School domains.
A really short summary for all this could be:
- Shyamalan Foundation’s defines the ‘Inside Job;’
- ABC Community School Partnership and Mission: Graduate describe the ‘Outside Job;’ and,
- Community School Coordinators are the mechanism for effectively linking the two.