Closing the Achievement Gap
Defining the Achievement Gap
The U.S. Department of Education describes the achievement gap as the difference in academic performance between different ethnic groups. In California, the gap is defined as the disparity between white students and other ethnic groups and between English learners and native English speakers, socioeconomically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged, and students with disabilities as compared to students without disabilities.
About the Initiative
In February 2007, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Jack O’Connell announced his intent to lead an effort to
identify ways the state can better assist counties, districts, and
schools in their efforts to close California’s achievement
As public schools in California and across the nation become increasingly diverse, the most pernicious and challenging education issue of our time is the academic achievement gap. The racial and economic achievement gaps are a fact that California simply cannot afford to accept—morally, economically or socially. We know that all children can learn to the same high levels, so we must confront and change those things that are holding groups of students back.
The Approach to Closing the Gap
The Superintendent's approach to developing and implementing a
plan for closing the achievement gap included charging his
California P-16 Council (Council) to provide recommendations on
what the State can do differently to assist local education
agencies in closing the achievement gap. In addition, he
established a P-16 Unit within the California Department of
Education to assist the Council in their work.
The P-16 Unit conducted extensive information gathering via examining existing research; surveying educators, students, families, and other stakeholders; identifying current exemplary successful practices in California; conducting town hall meetings, community forums, and through a statewide Achievement Gap Summit in Sacramento in November 2007.
The P-16 Unit visited schools, county offices of education, and school districts to gather vital information and input. Based on the information gathered, the Superintendent outlined his initial recommendations in his State of Education Address in early 2008.
"Sadly, too many people view (California's) diversity as a big problem. I don't. Instead, I say: Imagine! Imagine the potential of that diversity in today's–and tomorrow's—global economy. If we educate these students well, our state would not only be able to compete more effectively, but it would be able to lead our nation and the world economically."
— State Superintendent Jack O'Connell