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Beating the Odds: The Real Challenges Behind the Math Achievement Gap--And What High-Achieving Schools Can Teach Us About How to Close It

Abstract

"One of the largest and most persistent inequities in the modern American education system is the gap in math achievement along income and race lines. [This report] argues that the math achievement gap is not, as commonly viewed, primarily the result of poor and uneven math instruction in urban schools. ...Rather, the math gap appears to be the result of the broader failure in the schooling experience of low-income and minority students that leaves many of them discouraged and disengaged, and the particular failure of math classrooms to address the psychological and learning needs of students who have not experienced success in math previously. ...This paper highlights a promising trend--the growing number of academically rigorous small schools that are beating the odds by bringing the highest-need students to high levels of math achievement. Their success stems from their willingness to address the deep-rooted instructional and organizational flaws of traditional school design. Taking the best ideas from the "small schools movement" of the 1980s and 1990s, which created effective learning environments for students at risk of failure in large urban settings, these new small schools have been able not only to retain struggling students but also to prepare them for college work."

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