WASHINGTON U.-ST. LOUIS (US) — The achievement gap separating black and white students, particularly boys, remains—and may be even wider than originally thought.
New research finds that only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.
“Our research on Missouri high schools suggests that having a good teacher results in better learning outcomes in science for traditionally underperforming groups,” says William F. Tate, professor of education at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The same is true in mathematics. Eradicating the teaching or instructional gap is a significant part of addressing the achievement gap problem.
“The literature is clear that when students have teachers who cultivate high expectations while exhibiting a high level of support the outcomes trend toward student learning.”
It may be possible for schools with high percentages of free and reduced lunch and minority students to increase science proficiency by having more science courses taught by faculty trained in science content areas, more teachers who are regularly certified, and more teachers who have master’s degrees, Tate writes in a new research paper.
“While teacher quality is generally acknowledged in public debates as important, there remain some skeptics who view state certification as non-essential, as well as the lack of capacity and dedicated resources to address this significant equity challenge in science education,” Tate says.
His study suggests that teacher quality in high-poverty majority-minority school settings remains an important policy target for reform and improvement.
“Teacher quality is a big part of the picture, but so is parent and community involvement, school leadership, and curriculum and assessment,” says Victoria May, director of educational outreach. “Combining these efforts is crucial to closing achievement gaps in situations where race and poverty are affecting children.”
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