Students learn of achievement gap at Civil Rights Conference
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 17:03
Trista Havner and Carol Ann Williams presented “Bridging the Achievement Gap: The Struggles and Successes of the Minority Student” as part of the Civil Rights Conference on Feb. 21.
The two teachers from Jackson Central-Merry Academy of Medical Technology discussed the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their counterparts.
“We haven’t always provided a fair education for all types of American students. For instance, minority students, students who could not afford to go to the better schools, often got pushed aside. … We have a whole group of students, minority students, who have been left behind by the education system,” said Trista Havner, who teaches history at the school.
For Havner, the work they do is a kind of continuation of the civil rights movement.
“It’s about extending the ideas, the essence, of civil rights to these students through what we are doing everyday in our classrooms, everyday outside of our classrooms, in the hallway, in the cafeteria. It’s not just changing our educational system, it’s changing the mental state of our students, the academic state of our students,” Havner said.
The faculty had to change their teaching methods to help students learn.
“How am I supposed to tell them that Shakespeare is the most important thing they need to know if they’re hungry? If they’re alone because Mom is working two jobs because she’s doing her very best for her family and my student’s taking care of his or her younger siblings and I’ve assigned a 20 page research paper. It’s not going to happen. You’ve got to understand what survival mode is and figure out a way to work within it to have a child succeed,” said Carol Ann Williams, who teaches Pychology, English and Sociology at the school.
As to what Jackson Central-Merry has done to combat the problem of the achievement gap, literacy became the solution. They instituted a school-wide literacy initiative, in which the first and last 10 minutes of class are reserved for writing. The key is consistency.
“The first and last 10 minutes of class are sacred in our school. … Writing begins and ends every single class every single day,” said Williams.
Jackson Central-Merry uses the DEEPER model (D-do now, E-engage, E-execute, P-practice, ER-evaluate and reflect), in which students are taught to not only answer the essential question of the day’s lesson, but to also cite source material to back up their interpretation.
As Williams points out, the proof is in the pudding.
“You can say what you want, you can believe what you want to believe, but the data doesn’t lie,” said Williams.
And it is working, according to the data. The graduation rate for Jackson Central-Merry Academy of Medical Technology went from 54.4 percent in 2005 to 91.3 percent in 2012. The school participated in Lexile testing as well, in which the expected gain is 25 Lexile levels. Their incoming tenth-graders gained 103.
Williams and Havner also stressed the importance reading aloud to children and having reading material available to children inside the home as a way to instill a love of reading early.
“If you can’t read fluently, then you’re done,” said Havner.
Overall, Williams had some words of encouragement for bridging the achievement gap.
“It can be done; it can happen; it is possible.”