You should view The Other Achievement Gap, a pre-recorded webcast from earlier this week, sponsored by the Thomas Fordham Institute. This video highlights the challenge that has been created for high-achieving students, but what you should also do is call on your school and school district for a solution that is already available. That solution is within our reach if we are willing to provide teachers the advantages of individualized instruction from companies such as Adaptive Curriculum.
With pressure from No Child Left Behind, our nation’s attention has turned to assuring equal opportunity for all students. This is a laudable goal, consistent with our democratic principles. All students deserve minimal levels of knowledge and skill, especially in math science and language. What has been lost in our move toward greater equality is the unintended consequence of marginalizing high achieving students. Our challenge, of course, is to do both, providing a “minimal level of skill and knowledge” to all while assuring that capable, high-achieving students have access to more advanced topics in math, science and languages. Sadly, even the minimal levels of knowledge and skill are sorely short of what is needed.
Achieve has repeatedly made the point that we are still not demanding the minimum for college and work readiness. The 2011 report of Achieve observed how far we are behind; only 20 states have raised their requirements to a level that would ensure that all graduates are prepared for success in college and the workplace. Of course, Achieve is rightfully proud that its work has contributed to raising that number from three states to 20 in little more than half a decade. The challenge of doing both remains; we must educate to minimal levels of college and work readiness, and we must meet the needs of high-achieving students. And we can do both.
However, we cannot do both if we continue down the same educational path that adults encountered in their own K-12 education. In an earlier blog, Forces for Change in Higher Education, I described the potential that we had from such forces as institutional unbundling with learning opportunities no longer tied to the traditional school and individualized and personalized learning that can come from new online learning like that offered by Adaptive Curriculum. This Scottsdale Arizona-based company is a leader in providing school districts with engaging, online science and math education that can meet individualized educational needs. The math and science activity objects built by Adaptive Curriculum allow teachers to increase their attention to individual students who are either behind or ahead of their classmates.
There is absolutely no reason why schools are not seeking out companies like Adaptive Curriculum, except, of course, for the money. If, however, we are serious about doing both – having equal access to educational opportunity and meeting needs of high-achieving students – then we can find the resources. Instead of renewing texts with new purchases, we can do what the State of Texas did and fund software. Instead of buying more hardware like white boards, we can fund software and Internet access to educational resources for the white boards we already use. Instead of funding another round of research on achievement gaps, we can fund a solution like software. Instead of funding teacher training, we can ask that the software vendor include teacher training as part of a purchase. Money is not the object to doing both; the will to do so is.