April 12, 2004, Extra Credit
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April 12, 2004

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April 9
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Closing the Achievement Gap In Virginia

The following are excerpts from a recent Virginian Pilot article highlighting how No Child Left Behind is working to close the achievement gap between white and minority students:

"Fifty years after the Supreme Court declared that children of all races were entitled to an equal education, the outcomes are anything but balanced. In more than 95 percent of public schools in South Hampton Roads and across Virginia, white students outscored black students on basic reading and math tests, according to a Virginian-Pilot analysis of more than 1,200 schools. The disparities aren't limited to predominantly black and low-income schools. At Norfolk's Larchmont Elementary, 97 percent of white students passed last year's reading Standards of Learning tests, compared with 57 percent of black students. ... Still, experts and educators see hope behind those figures. In fact, they see hope because of them: Data might be able to do what Brown could not."

"[The achievement gaps are] being caught in different ways all across South Hampton Roads. Schools in every division have improvement plans in which principals identify weaknesses and devise techniques for progress. In many places, the plans now zero in on achievement gaps, in large part because of the focus on data in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The act requires schools to report scores along racial and economic lines. It also requires them to raise the performance of all students, rather than resting on the results of whiter and wealthier test-takers. For example, in Virginia, a school meets state accreditation standards if 70 percent of students pass the SOLs. The No Child Left Behind Act makes schools identify the other 30 percent and bring their scores up, too."

"Rather than looking at, "Did we meet the magic pass rate?" we ask, "Did we meet that pass rate for all groups of students?" said Linda Duffy Palombo, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Chesapeake. "We have more clear data to deal with, and I think the better your data is, the better decisions you make."

"Perhaps no where in South Hampton Roads is the achievement gap a greater focus than in Norfolk, whose superintendent, John O. Simpson, co-chairs the national Council of Great City Schools' achievement gap task force. In the past five years, Norfolk's gaps have been cut in half in a number of areas, and by 75 percent in high-school English and Algebra II. Simpson is now focusing on black students in diverse settings, including fully accredited schools such as Larchmont and Willoughby elementaries, which have a more equal racial mix but where black students' scores are markedly lower."


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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2013