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News: League News

Statewide Perspective on Closing the Achievement Gap

Wednesday, November 14, 2018  
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Lorna Beckett, Ph.D.

Director of Research & Evaluation


In this month’s MOVE, the League provided several different perspectives surrounding Closing the Achievement Gap. Below, the League’s Director of Research and Evaluation shares her thoughts on the topic.


Before I moved to educational research, I started in the classroom as a teacher. I worked primarily as a special education teacher, and saw first-hand the achievement gap with my students. The term “achievement gap” is used to describe the difference in academic achievement between specific groups of students, such as socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged students. The achievement gap poses significant consequences to both individuals and to society as a whole. Achievement gaps contribute to inequities in educational attainment and employment opportunities. Research has found achievement gaps to be correlated with higher dropout rates and lower college graduation rates, which can impact the income an individual is able to earn. Research has also found that achievement gaps are responsible for the decline in the U.S. economy and are an impediment to long-term productivity and economic competitiveness.[1] If educators are to help students succeed in college or careers, it is important that they take steps in school to address the achievement gap.


In Colorado, educationally disadvantaged students in charter schools score higher on state assessments than educationally disadvantaged students in public non-charter schools. However, based on CMAS scores from 2014-15 to 2017-18, both charter and non-charter schools have not decreased the achievement gap in any educationally disadvantaged subgroup. In some subgroups, such as students with disabilities, the achievement gap has actually increased since 2014-15.



Based on this data, public schools in Colorado have yet to decrease the achievement gaps. Charters are uniquely positioned to confront achievement gaps due to their flexibility and autonomy to address student needs in real time. While the achievement gap is part of a broader societal and environmental issue, research has found that schools can impact the achievement gap directly. Schools can use research-based strategies such as academic interventions to help educationally disadvantaged students accelerate their learning, and ensuring they use a rigorous curriculum combined with quality instruction.[2]


While my role here at the League is to use data and research to ensure that we know how things look today, and where things may be projecting to go in the future, I still think about my past students. Based on my own experience in the classroom I strongly believe that each teacher and each school has the potential, opportunity, and responsibility to help close the gap with each student. The data may not reflect the work teachers are doing to help close the achievement gap yet, but with continued work and focus, we can move towards closing the gap.

[1] Murphy, J.F. (2012). The Educator’s Handbook for Understanding and Closing Achievement Gaps. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

[2] Murphy, J.F. (2012). The Educator’s Handbook for Understanding and Closing Achievement Gaps. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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