Closing the Achievement Gap
By Peter Noonan
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, FCPS
“In FCPS, all schools will establish professional learning communities that employ best practices to raise the bar for all students and close the achievement gap,” said Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack D. Dale (pictured in the middle photo below).
When he made this statement at the district’s August 5, 2010, Leadership Conference, it refocused us all on the importance of ensuring that we meet the needs of every child in FCPS.
In the months that followed, the Instructional Services Department, along with a talented group of educational leaders from across the school division, developed The Closing the Achievement Gap Plan.
This plan is a culmination of years of research associated with understanding the achievement gap between Black/Hispanic and White/Asian students. The project team utilized the extensive work of several key plans that include Best Practices in Teaching and Learning, eCART, Responsive Instruction, Priority Schools Initiative, and the School Support Roadmap.
Additional programs and initiatives that support closing the gap — such as Compacted Math, Young Scholars, Data-Driven Comprehensive School Counseling Program, After School Programs, and various parent and community outreach programs — have been included with strategic measurable outcomes to ensure a laser-like focus on closing the achievement gap in FCPS.
Closing the achievement gap is a moral imperative for our school division. It recognizes that a central aspect of the success of these programs and initiatives is establishing and sustaining strong professional learning communities (PLCs) at each school and within each department. A common language and vocabulary about the gap and these strategies are included in the plan. However, it requires that we invest the time and attention necessary to ensure all students learn.
Many of the strategies encompassed in the plan afford opportunities for teams of teachers to effectively analyze data, identify areas of need, and develop instructional responses that are timely and tailored for students who do not master objectives. This focus, “by name and by need,” will allow us all to successfully raise the bar and close the gap for all students collectively.
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts (pictured right) reflected the collaborative and caring spirit in FCPS when he said: “You must accept the challenge that every child is your responsibility, even when he or she is not your child. An achievement gap matters, even when it’s not your community; an opportunity gap matters, even when it’s not your chance; a skills gap matters, even when your own kids are all grown up and fully employed. We all have a stake in a better future.”
To read more about and review The Closing the Gap Plan, visit: www.fcps.edu/DIS. We also invite you to read more about the work we are doing in FCPS on the following pages.