Community schools can help reduce the achievement gap

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

The U.S. Department of Education defines the achievement gap as “the difference in academic performance between different ethnic, racial or socio-economic groups.” Greenwich has the largest achievement gap in Connecticut and Connecticut has the largest gap in the U.S.A.

Two proven predictors of academic success are fluency in English and having parents who understand and carry out the important role that they play in ensuring that their children succeed in school. Many parents of free and reduced lunch (F&RL) children do not know how to do this.

In a fascinating case of parallel development, as Peter Sherr and I were developing our community schools model, Connecticut passed “An Act Concerning Community Schools” which became effective July 1.

The act states, “The effectiveness of a community schools strategy is based on a set of principles including education adapted to the needs of the community, high expectations for schools and students, reliance on family and community strengths as critical factors for student success. A set of structural elements, including partnerships with community organizations, alignment of funding streams with the natural assets of communities, and integration of academic learning with essential supports and opportunities, helps diverse communities craft their own vehicle for change. Further, it recognizes that parents play a critical role in their children’s academic development.”

We should apply proven best practices to improve achievement, particularly in schools with large F&RL populations by adding:

• More emphasis on early literacy and fluency (immersion English) in elementary grades.

• More academic learning time during the school day.

• Accelerate technology to support digital learning.

• Involve the community in schooling.

• As children approach college age, provide parent briefings on options for how to finance college, including the GI Bill.

We should offer the following courses at one or more neighborhood schools as part of our Adult Ed programs: educational parenting, English as a second language, citizenship, adult basic education, GED Prep, and the GHS course in basic business law in Spanish. Many of these courses will facilitate the successful transition of these families into the middle class.


Peter von Braun

The author is a member of the Greenwich Board of Education.

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