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Surmounting the learning gap

August 25, 2007

Re "Schools chief seeks end to learning gap," Aug. 19

I am worried that state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's plan to narrow the achievement gap will be more of the same. Nowhere in his comments did he refer to language acquisition as one of the factors that may be creating and maintaining the achievement gap. He mentions that Latino and African American students lag behind poor white and Asian students in math, that non-poor Latino students barely outperform poor whites, and that non-poor African Americans lag further behind. However, he does not break down those groups into how many are English learners or standard English learners.

Students who are acquiring a second language or standard English are chasing a moving target, as white and Asian students are not standing still in their achievement. In many respects, we are expecting the Latino and African American students to catch up to this moving target without additional instruction, time or specialized materials. Until O'Connell considers the needs of these students, his plan will be more of the same.

JoAnne Slater


The writer is an educational consultant.

The real learning gap is at the Department of Education. Education Trust-West research two years ago showed that school districts with largely minority populations can't afford to pay competitive salaries required to recruit and retain top-quality teachers.

Only teachers teach, and kids taught by good teachers will learn even if they are taught under a tree and use sticks in the dirt to do practice work. To even remotely allude that race has anything to do with learning gaps is outrageous.

Whatever is wrong in school districts rests on the desk of the state superintendent of education. Unequal teacher salaries are among those problems. The state Department of Education should establish a uniform statewide schedule of salaries and benefits so that all districts are on equal footing for recruiting and retaining teachers.

John F. Rossmann


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