Closing the Achievement Gap?

By KBJR News 1

October 12, 2010 Updated Oct 12, 2010 at 10:22 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN -- (Northland's NewsCenter) -- The Duluth School District is working harder this fall to close the achievement gap.

The newest effort includes dissolving the district's magnet schools program, and using the roughly-one-million-dollars saved to revamp district-wide education strategies. The goal is to help the district's lowest performing students -- often those who belong to diverse socioeconomic and minority groups.

So far, district officials say large-scale programs to solve the problem haven't worked.

"The reality is there isn't a program out there you can buy and close the achievement gap,"said School District Superintendent Keith Dixon speaking at tonight's school board meeting.

"If there was, we'd of all been doing that years ago."

Dixon's remarks came at the end of an education update designed to inform board members and the public about the effectiveness of the district's new efforts to close the gap.

What are they?

- Here in Duluth 14 DATA coaches have been hired by the district to help close the achievement gap.

- The new coaches exist solely to focus groups of teachers on how to reach kids who are under–performing on mandatory state tests.

- Along with those coaches come integration specialists who directly help students and their families by providing individual learning strategies.

- Several new class offerings are also available for kids who need more help, including special reading programs.

"We've had some amazing stories shared about problem solving, discussions that are going on, further questions that teachers have brought to the table and that they then sit down together and talk about," said District Curriculum Coordinator Terri Huttel, reporting on the latest progress.

Huttel added that she was hopeful for the future of the program -- which has only been in place for the last month -- and said measurable standards would be in place in the future to track its effectiveness.

Written for the web by Matt Standal