Report Finds Achievement Gap Continuing to Narrow


This week the Center on Education Policy (CEP) released a report that examines testing data from all fifty states to determine if achievement gaps between subgroups of students are narrowing. The report also looked at the achievement trends of subgroups of students at the elementary school level. In summary, the CEP reported that “on the whole, the disparities appear to be narrowing because of the accelerated achievement of lower-performing groups, not slower progress by high-achieving groups.”

While this is certainly good news, we have a long way to go before every student has equal access to a quality education. One important way large high schools are attempting to close the achievement gap is through freshmen success programs, or what some schools call freshmen or 9th grade academies. Schools with 1,000 or more students can apply for the federally funded Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant, which pays for assessments, materials and faculty training. In these classes, curriculum focuses on helping at-risk students boost their academic, emotional and social skills.

SLCs also include structures such as multi-grade academies organized around career interests or other themes, “houses” in which small groups of students remain together throughout high school; and autonomous schools-within-a-school, such as student advisories, family advocate systems, and mentoring programs. Grants are awarded for up to 60 months to the Local Education Agency (LEA) that apply on behalf of large public high schools. Projects integrate the implementation or expansion of SLCs with improvements in curriculum and instruction, and other activities to raise student academic achievement.

LifeBound works with SLC-awarded districts and schools across the country, and the Smaller Learning Communities Program plans to announce a new grant competition sometime in 2010.  For more information about applying for a SLC grant, please contact LifeBound by calling toll free 1.877.737.8510 or emailing

Education Week
by Stephen Sawchuk

Achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students on state tests have narrowed in many instances over the past decade—continuing a trend that appears to have been bolstered in the 1990s by the standards-based-reform movement, concludes a wide-ranging analysis released today.

The study from the Center on Education Policy analyzes the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers, and between minority and white students, using test data from all 50 states collected from 2002 through 2008.

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