JONATHAN BURTON, BUSINESS MANAGER:
In a world plagued with a national budget crisis, wars on terror, fights and a new found fear placed in the minds and hearts of many Americans because of a possible attack on the U.S. after the slaying of Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, the educational achievement gap between low-income students and non-low income students is growing in America. Connecticut is at the bottom of the list with the highest educational achievement
gap out of all 50 states.
Connecticut Council for Educational Reform’s (CCER) website reports that Conn. has some of the wealthiest towns in the country as well as some of the poorest, and those disparities
in income contributesto the achievement gap.
“[Connecticut] has three of the poorest cities,” said Dr. Norris Haynes, a professor in SCSU’s counseling and school of psychology department, and director of the Center for Community and School Action Research (CCSAR). “Three of the cities have the highest concentration
of impoverished families, Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.”
Assistant professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Dr. Sousan Arafeh agrees with Haynes and CCER, “I think Hartford is a city in the whole nation that has the highest youth poverty of its size.”
Haynes and Arafeh have partnered to develop the EAG series, an effort geared towards developing a discussion among faculty, students and the New Haven community to educate people about the gap, and come up with ways of narrowing or closing the gap.
“I think closing the achievement gap is a long term goal,” said Arafeh. “The series can certainly start a discussion and steer us towards a future solution.”
Dr. Ronald Ferguson, a senior lecturer in education and policy at Havard University’s
Kennedy School of Education said he believes the gap can be closed, and will be closed. He said the current factors plaguing the nations are not stopping “us” from doing what “we need to do” to close the gap.
“It’s true that it’s not easy,” said Ferguson. “We can focus on those things that are standing
in our way, or we can say that we’re just not going to allow those things to hold us back and we can focus on what we need to do.”
Arafeh and Haynes joins a list full of people in the state working towards a common goal, closing the gap. They both proposed two separate programs about the Achievement
gap to the Faculty Development Advisory council, said Arafeh. The council suggested both professors work together on their separate efforts because their proposals were similar.
Both Arafeh and Haynes agree that SCSU can play a vital role in closing the gap.
Arafeh said a question that faculty, staff and students should start asking themselves is, “how do we at southern work harder or better to help close the achievement gap, particularly
here in New Haven.”
According to CCER gap between low-income students and non-low-income students is 36.1 percent state wide and 21.2 percent in the city of New Haven.
Haynes said one of the factors contributing to Conn. EAG, are the 165 “very small school districts.
“They are very segregated school systems where the quality and growth of educational and school opportunities are very limited.”
“I learned math, science, writing, chemistry, social studies, and language arts at my school today,” said sixth grader Eric Brown. Brown, an African American student at New Haven’s Lincoln Bassett school said he likes school because his teachers make learning fun.
According to senior education major, Jackie Edwards, who is currently student teaching
in Bridgeport, it is hard for teachers to make learning creative.
“I was fortunate use some different approaches to teaching my students,” said Edwards. “But the sad truth is in some cases some teachers have to basically prepare students for a test.”
Haynes lists three critical “ingredients” to a students’ achievement success: Ability, opportunity and effort.
“I think as long as we can understand these ingredients,” Haynes said, “We can began to make a dent in the gap.”
Haynes and Arafeh series began on March 11 and 12 with the two day panel discussion
about the movie “Waiting for Superman,” followed by a EAG forum on April 2, and the program ended with the EAG Symposium on May 7, which included Ferguson as the keynote speaker.
According to Arafeh the series is not intended to lay blame on anyone, she said, “everyone is to blame.” Educators, government officials, parents, and the test measures are all at fault, Arafeh insists.
Ferguson is optimistic that one there will be a black kid from a low-income family and a white kid from a non-low-income family standing in front of him and he will no longer be able to tell which one has the highest test scores.
Former SCSU president Dr. Cheryl Norton attended the March 11 panel discussion.
She said it breaks her heart to know that students in America are not receiving a good education, “especially in Connecticut.”
“It [education] should never be a matter of chance,” said Norton. “It should always be a matter of hope and opportunity, because that’s what we owe our children.”
Haynes remains positive, he said there are some schools in the state that are progressing
and narrowing the gap. He said “we” have to remember that the gap isn’t just in Connecticut.
“The whole country is behind educationally,” said Arafeh. “We’re very scared here: nationally.”
He chuckled at the thought, but Haynes said for the gap to close it would take courage and bravery among politicians.
“Someone has to have the guts to make moves and change the structure of education,”
‘Ingredients’ needed to close achievement gap
JONATHAN BURTON, BUSINESS MANAGER: