The achievement gap plagues schools and school divisions around the country. In this compelling book, four staff members and a parent from the Arlington Public Schools (VA), along with former APS Superintendent, Rob Smith, have chronicled the district's more than 12 year attempt to grapple with the difficult issues and move toward the heart of the problem. Looking back over their journey, the APS team believes that solutions to the gap challenge must come from a real awareness of the systemic nature of the problem, the effective and intentional use of data, and a shared responsibility for the development of solutions. There is much to learn from their thoughtfully told stories. (Daniel A. Domenech, Executive director, American Association of School Administrators)
The strength of the book is in how a school board, superintendent, and determined staff including teachers tackled a thorny and wicked problem and built slowly an infrastructure that permitted the entire APS staff to deal openly with issues usually left untouched―that of the relationship between race and the achievement gap. (Larry Cuban, Professor Emeritus of Education, Stanford University)
This is an important story of a school district systematically and systemically diminishing its racial, socio-economic and linguistic achievement gaps. It presents a forthright blueprint for mobilizing schools and the community to make the structural changes necessary to improve the fortunes of its most low performing students. (Allan Alson, educational consultant; former superintendent, Evanston Township High School; founder, Minority Student Achievement Network)
Reducing and, ultimately, eliminating achievement gaps is a critical task for public school systems today and, indeed, for the nation. The story told by Gaining on the Gap provides valuable insights for School Board members and others who are committed to this task. (Libby Garvey, member, Arlington School Board)
Gaining on the Gap provides powerful insights into one school district's efforts to eliminate the achievement gap. The collective and varied experiences of the authors reveal the complexities of this issue. Their experiences also give us hope that through honest conversations, sustained professional development, accountability, and use of effective strategies, all students can be successful. (National Association of Pupil Services Administrators)
For many years I have been telling administrators, 'If you want to lose your job, place the education of poor and minority students first.' Fortunately, the authors of this volume have totally ignored me and sought to find practical and powerful ways to insure that all students receive a first class education. Rather than bemoan the legislative mandates and testing schemes, these authors point us in clear directions for making what historian David Tyack called 'the one best system' a reality in the lives of children and families who most need it to be just that. (Gloria Ladson-Billings, department chair and Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Closing the gap is the very tip of the iceberg that Rob Smith and his talented team undertook in the Arlington Public Schools. Tackling institutional, societal and personal racism as part of the strategy to achieve this goal became a joint venture of the school board, teachers, staff, students and community. A heroic effort and a powerful story unfold. All of us in education need to read this book. (Anne Bryant, executive director, National School Boards Association)
The study offers important lessons for both education practitioners and policymakers. It gives practitioners a new perspective on understanding the achievement gap and ways of narrowing it. For policymakers, it provides insight into what states and the federal government may do to help schools in their reform efforts. (Education Week)
About the Author
Robert G. Smith is associate professor in the George Mason University's College of Education and Human Development's Education Leadership program.
Alvin L. Crawley is assistant superintedent for student services at Arlington Public Schools.
Cheryl Robinson is the supervisor for the Office of Minority Achievement for the Arlington Public Schools.
Timothy Cotman, Jr. is a minority achievement coordinator with the Arlington Public Schools.
Marty Swaim is a cultural competence trainer.
Palma Joe Strand is associate professor at Creighton Law School in Omaha, Nebraska.