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Written by Iris Maria Chavez

The data are irrefutable. Nationally, nearly half of low-income fourth graders lack even basic reading skills, compared with 18 percent of their higher income peers. The same is true of one in two American Indian, African-American, and Latino fourth graders—but fewer than one in four white students. Low-income eighth graders are two and a half times as likely as higher income eighth graders to have below basic math skills.

And while Minnesota has higher performance than many other states, its gaps are spectacularly wide: in eighth grade math, for example, it has some of the largest gaps of any state; its black-white gap is tied for the third largest nationwide, and its gap in achievement between Latinos and whites is tied for the second largest in the nation.

These achievement gaps are pervasive, they’re persistent, and they’re profoundly damaging. But they are not inevitable. Across the country, schools, districts, and even whole states are showing what’s possible when educators, policymakers, and advocates organize to educate all students to high levels, regardless of race, income, or family background.

These top performers are perhaps the most valuable resources available to those of us committed to raising achievement and closing gaps because not only do they offer inspiration, they offer information on what it takes to get the work done. But identifying and distilling lessons from success can be a daunting task for the principal whose school demands every moment of her time, or the school board member busy attending to the needs of his local community.

That’s where The Education Trust comes in. We mine the data from schools, districts, and states across the country to identify those places that are raising achievement, closing gaps, and ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for college and the workplace. We uncover the strategies, policies, and practices of these top performers. And this October 24-25 at Baltimore’s beautiful Inner Harbor, we’re bringing them together to share their stories at our national conference.

Under the theme “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results: Working Together to Raise Achievement and Close Gaps,” this year’s conference will feature lessons from state and district leaders, educators, and advocates tackling some of the toughest issues of the day. The opportunities offered by our sessions include:

  • CHARTER AUTHORIZERS: Charter schools vary in quality—and their authorizers can promote those doing well and weed out others. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers will discuss how to hold both charter schools and authorizers accountable—and the Education Trust-Midwest will tell how they’ve advocated for stronger authorizer accountability in Michigan.
  • ATTRACTING THE STRONGEST TEACHERS TO THE HIGHEST NEED SCHOOLS: Guilford County Public Schools have encouraged more highly effective teachers to teach and stay in its highest need schools. Hear about the challenges and successes—and the results on student learning.
  • COLLECTIVE IMPACT INITIATIVES: How can schools, districts, and partner organizations who want to work together successfully coordinate efforts and resources to support improvements in student achievement? Learn how you can apply the lessons of the Road Map Project, which brings together advocates, educational institutions, funders, businesses, and the public to improve student outcomes in the greater Seattle region.
  • LEGISLATION OR LITIGATION? USING THE COURTS AS A TOOL FOR EDUCATION REFORM: How do you know when to take your education equity issue to court instead of the statehouse? Hear from those involved with two recent cases—one on teacher effectiveness and quality and one on school funding—about why they chose court action, how court cases can create change, how communities can engage in the process, and potential benefits and pitfalls.

These are just a few examples of what attendees will glean from the more than 30 sessions scheduled for the conference, all of which are especially designed to provide relevant, concrete, and actionable information. A full Schedule-At-A-Glance is now available! For more information about this opportunity to learn from leaders in the fight for achievement and equity, visit the Ed Trust website.

I hope to see you in October!

Iris Maria Chavez is the Assistant Field Director for The Education Trust.



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