I was recently talking to a principal from a school that was considered a “Focus” school. They were not on the list because the overall school was performing badly. They were on the list because they were a Title I school that has a large within-school gap between the highest achieving subgroup or subgroups and the lowest-achieving subgroup. The fact was, their highest achievers were really high, higher than the norm, making the gap even wider between those who were not achieving as expected. Their high achievers clearly demonstrated that they were doing some things right.
It is also clear that something is not right for some of the low achieving sub groups. The district’s first steps should now be to develop and implement a targeted and tailored solution to meet the unique needs of those students. Or should they be?
Actually, if they do not take the time to determine what is really affecting student achievement they run several risks:
- Fixing the same problem again and again… It’s like using calamine lotion to get rid of poison ivy without ever figuring out where you got it from. You may get rid of the rash, but if you have not taken care of the cause, it will keep reoccurring.
- Going to pet theories and/or worrying more about affixing blame than solving the problem.
- Gathering lots of data, but failing to use it appropriately causing ineffective actions and unnecessary expenditures.
The Every Student Succeeds Act now makes schools more responsible for closing those achievement gaps. Take the time to determine the true cause of the lack of achievement of some students in order to avoid those common pitfalls.