NYC study highlights challenges in closing the achievement gap
- A vast achievement gap remains at most schools in New York City the, despite a diverse student body, according to a new analysis by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, which maps the achievement gaps at public elementary schools in the district by race and poverty levels, the New York Times reports.
- The study, which looks at student performance on the 2016 state math assessment for 3rd-5th graders, notes that the poorer students, often black or Hispanic, tended to score lower on tests, even when they went to the same school as wealthier children, who were generally white. Will Mantell, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Education, notes that the gap in high school graduation rates is closing and dropout rates are improving
- Nicole Mader, a co-author of the study, said in the article that the lingering achievement gap indicates that “there’s a big leap between having diversity and having integration” and suggests that the gap will not close until students are in the same classrooms, have equal access to high-quality teachers and are disciplined in the same manner.
While this article focuses on New York City, the largest and most diverse city in the U.S., the city acts as a sort of microcosm of the rest of the country when it comes to issues of race and diversity. The achievement gap challenges seen there are echoed in many communities across the county. Despite recommended strategies for closing the gap issued by the National Education Association, many schools still struggle with this issue.
However, there are schools that have been able to close the gap and these can act as models for other districts. In New York City, the Success Academy charter schools are among them, Mader notes in the recent study on achievement gaps, adding that while income gaps in the schools were among the widest, the achievement gap was among the narrowest in the city and that “Black and Hispanic students performed far above students with comparable incomes at other schools.” In fact, 76% of the 14,000 students at the nearly 50 schools operated by Success Academy are low-income and 93% are African-American or Hispanic, yet its elementary and middle schools were among the top 10% of campuses statewide in English, math and science.
The school attributes its success to its mission. “At Success Academy, we valorize thinking and believe in learning by doing. Scholars learn best when they are engaged—grappling with challenging problems and discussing rich, complex texts. We pair this approach with high expectations and accountability, setting a rigorous bar for effort, thinking, and work and consistently investing scholars in doing their best,” their website states. The model has been so successful that the school was recently awarded the prestigious $250,000 Broad Prize for its efforts to close achievement gaps and is now offering a free portal called the “Success Academy Education Institute” that allows other school districts access to its model. Other schools in the country are also finding ways to close the achievement gap, but they all seem to have two elements in common: a strong focus on literacy and high expectations from all students, regardless of race or wealth.
- New York Times In School Together, but Not Learning at the Same Rate