Tag Archives: integration

If we really want to close the achievement gap

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raylawni_Branch

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raylawni_Branch

What drives me crazy about conversations about the achievement gap between minorities and whites is that we don’t talk about the causes. Before we get to solutions we should look to why the achievement gap exists. The thing is, that conversation is uncomfortable. I see three main historical reasons that are intertwined racism, poverty, and segregation.

Everyone knows that during the Jim Crow era, blacks were forced into separate schools that were inferior in every way to white schools: resources, buildings, money, teacher training, etc. Segregated schools were definitely not equal and put blacks at huge disadvantages. Segregated schools contributed to huge income gaps (along with institutional racism such as redlined housing and unfair hiring practices). So today we have a legacy where many blacks live in poverty and still attend defacto segregated schools in urban areas due to white flight to either the suburbs or private schools.

So how should we proceed based on these historical causes of the achievement gap? Well there actually is evidence (and here) of some successful ideas to close the achievement gap through integrating schools by busing minority students to white suburb schools or other ways of desegregation. Unfortunately there is about ZERO support for this type of program. Why? Partly because of the costs of the busing, but mostly the vocal complaints of white parents who don’t like it.

Researchers know that integration leads to all kinds of positive effects for blacks and also does not “harm” white achievement (I would add that it would have many benefits for white students being more understanding and empathetic of blacks).

The other thing that we could do as a society is address the wealth gap and actually do something to help people make a living wage and get out of poverty as we know that socio-economic status is the most important factor in measuring student achievement. Of course, blacks are disproportionately poor due to the same historical factors of segregation and discrimination.

Why don’t we address integration of schools and poverty? Well for one they would require the government to actually do something and many whites would oppose these actions with thinly veiled racism. These problems are outside of the control of local school districts and would require state or federal involvement.

If we really want to leave No Child Left Behind, we could start by fixing the causes of the achievement gap instead of blaming urban schools, teachers, students, and their parents. Instead we punish failing schools and closing them we could integrate schools and address the problem of poverty.

How will you Revolutionize the World?


Painting for people in nursing homes

Students just finished our first school wide project: Revolution Garden. This project combined 9th and 10th graders in their four cores looking at the Industrial Revolution to answer the driving question: “How will you Revolutionize the World?” Students studied the history of industrialization and its effects. They then picked a local, modern problem to work with a community partner on a solution. Students had to submit a grant proposal and present a showcase of their ideas. Students were competing for real money donated by our county United Way.
We created a different schedule for the three weeks of this project giving students “team time” to work on their project besides the related standards that they were studying in their core classes. Part of the students’ requirements was to find their own community partner. It was exciting for them to make calls and emails and get responses, sometimes in the middle of class. Many of the students had prepared professional posters and presentations for the showcase. We talked about how they needed a “hook” to get visitors to come to their booth. Students brainstormed props to to attract the community to check out their idea. Some students used food and others printed 3D models of their prototypes. I think this was a great learning moment for them to be both creative and marketable.


Papaya Bars

The showcase was a huge success with many wonderful ideas. Our county ISD has a grant writer who came and she wants to pursue federal grants for many of the projects. We also had the city Chamber of Commerce group come through and built some great relationships with local businesses.

3D prototype

3D prototype

We had six projects receive funds to continue their projects. Their concepts included:

  • A children’s book on recycling to be published and donated to local elementaries
  • Healthy fruit smoothies to be sold at our school
  • Bio luminescent plants (yes they have a geneticist working with them who says it is possible)
  • Delicious papaya bars containing healthy enzymes
  • A website that correlates donations to state senators to their voting records
  • A microchip to be installed in things like jump ropes to be implemented into video games.
Microchip for video games

Microchip for video games

Nurdle Research

Nurdle Research

This project was our most ambitious as a school as it crossed grade levels and classes and had us creating new schedules and home rooms for student teams. It also was very open-ended for students but very relevant by focusing on current problems and involving the community. I think this kind of project motivates students because of the relevant choice given them. Once again when given the chance our students blew us away with their ideas!