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Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds, and Practice

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1610482882
ISBN-10: 1610482883
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Editorial Reviews


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, AASA, The School Superintendents Association)

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, Kellner Family Distinguished 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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: R&L Education (September 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610482883
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610482882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,828,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, written by five educators and one parent from the Arlington, Virginia public school system, describes a long term effort to attack the achievement gap between white students and minority students in Arlington. I was most impressed by the fact that the idealism which runs through all the chapters is accompanied by equal parts of practicality, reality, and most importantly, results. The authors and their colleagues practice what they preach and they hold themselves and their school system publicly accountable. The results show that the Arlington Public Schools has made significant strides to close the gap.

The authors have helped create and been part of something very special-- something that hopefully will continue and spread far from Arlington. It is an understatement to say that the effort was difficult. The hard work and long hours spent creating and sustaining a new culture that serves all of the children in the district--regardless of race or ethnicity-- is apparent. After reading the book, one cannot help but feel strongly that it's all been worth it. The authors should be very proud of what they have done, and what they are still doing.

As a parent, not a professional educator, I found the story told in "Gaining on the Gap" exciting, inspiring and compelling. It should be read by educators and parents everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
How many school systems can boast of publishing their own book?
A veritable in-crowd from Arlington's education establishment earned joint authors' credit this year with release of "Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds and Practice," published by Rowman & Littlefield.
The challenge of boosting minority achievement in an affluent system stocked with tough customers is something I've been following since my kids entered Arlington schools 20 years ago. I'm pleased to see our locals get national attention.
At the center of the project is Rob Smith, who was Arlington's superintendent from 1997-2009 and is now associate professor of education leadership at George Mason University. The book recounts his vow, during his job interview with school board member Libby Garvey, to disprove the assumption one can predict how a child will do by his racial or ethnic background.
I watched Smith make a splash in 1999 when he joined 14 other superintendents from around the country to launch the Minority Student Achievement Network. Its plan was to track and publish data on the achievement gap among blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites. Not just test scores, but uncomfortable stuff like suspensions and drop-out rates.
Leaders, Smith writes, should "admit they have a problem and put data front and center in a form that can be understood easily; measure and report progress consistently; make the goal of eliminating or narrowing gaps a priority for everyone in the organization; distribute resources equitably with an eye toward achieving the goal; and implement interventions that focus on key variables early and consistently."
Credit for what would became Arlington's remarkable progress is shared with co-authors Alvin Crawley, Cheryl Robinson and Timothy Cotman Jr.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book- honest insights...a great read for suburban school leaders who want to learn from those who have undertaken the challenge of social justice in their schools!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very practical and systematic way of addressing this complex issue. I appreciated the teamwork and the different perspectives as well as the "lessons learned".
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