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NASBE Reports Closing Achievement Gap is Possible Through Public Support

November 17, 2004

Charleston, W.Va. ---West Virginia Board of Education President Barbara Fish announced today that American education has a historic opportunity to close the achievement gap and other systemic disparities such as funding inequities and teacher qualifications if state leaders can garner public support to enact these far-reaching and comprehensive education reforms.  

According to a new report by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), well-documented improvement strategies are already in place in various schools and school systems across the country, but what is now needed is the will to implement them in all states and all districts.  

Fish, who is a member of NASBE, contributed to the report.  

According to the report, states are now in the crucial stage where their education leaders must bring these reforms to scale at the state level. This task will require a critical appraisal by state leaders of the current status of education in their respective states, areas that need to be addressed, prioritizing these policies and practices, and an inventory of the resources available to support these reforms are some of the recommendations in the report.  

The result of a year-long study, the report notes that the achievement gap between racial groups that has garnered so much attention is only one of many gaps that must be bridged, including performance gaps between states and districts, differing graduation rates among high schools, and gaps between poor and middle income children.  

The fundamental gap that must be closed is the one between current student performance and the high standards expected of all students. The report identifies several essential school factors where inequities exist and which further exacerbate performance gaps. According to the report, state leaders must level the playing field for inputs such as teacher quality, funding, and facilities and outputs such as academic achievement and graduation rates if all students will have an adequate opportunity to learn.  

The report offers a series of policy recommendations for state leaders to consider as they navigate the difficult path to comprehensive, system-wide improvement. Among these strategies are:  

· providing high-quality, universal, voluntary access to preschool to all three- and four-year-old children and full-day kindergarten for all five-year-old children; · targeting resources to students most in need, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of these expenditures; · comprehensive plans for developing more highly qualified teachers and principals and ways in which to place and/or retain these personnel in schools that need them the most; · enhancing the abilities of educators at all levels to analyze and use the wealth of data that is now being collected to inform improvement strategies.  

The report committee was composed of twenty-two state board of education members and other education leaders. The report, Windows of Opportunity: State Strategies to Close Educational Gaps and Raise Achievement Levels for All Students, is available by calling (800) 220-5183 or via the Internet at www.nasbe.org  

NASBE, www.nasbe.org, represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Its principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education.

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