Achievement gap isn't solved by hiring teachers for the talented

Opinion

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In an exquisite example of "burying the lede," Bob Skolnik's article on District 97 ISAT scores (Oct. 5, 2005) notes in passing in the last paragraph that the school board "officially hired a full-time teacher...for the academically talented at Julian." The irony of this passage could not be lost on anyone who read the entire article.

In essence, Skolnik reports, middle school test results show "problems in math results for black, disadvantaged and special ed students."

Indeed, Dr. Kevin Anderson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, acknowledges that District 97 has "a gap of 20 percent to 50 percent between Caucasian students and black, economically disadvantaged and special ed students" in math test results. Yet, the school board authorizes payment for a full-time teacher that will presumably?#34;based on the ISAT numbers?#34;teach a predominantly white student population.

The achievement gap remains a persistent, unacceptable dilemma in our schools. It resists simple solutions. Nevertheless, as a school district and a community, we need to meet the problem head on with as much creativity and resources as possible. All district students will reap rewards from an academic environment in which socio-economics and race do not hinder achievement. This must be a primary goal of this school district, and with inspired leadership it need not seem utopian.

I do not in any way suggest that the board is indifferent to the gap problem. I am sure that is not true. Nor do I suggest that "academically talented" students do not deserve an excellent education. They most certainly are entitled to that. I do suggest, though, that in a time of limited resources?#34;a period during which the board itself has repeatedly stressed the need to set careful priorities while performing uncomfortable belt-tightening?#34;earmarking these resources on the population least at-risk academically seems, well, wasteful. It also leads to the perception, fair or unfair, that the board does not fully realize the dimensions of the "gap" problem.

John F. Murphy
Oak Park

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