Closing the Achievement Gap

MON, DEC 13, 2004 (1:37:45)

Richard Rothstein, former education columnist for the New York Times discusses factors contributing to the race achievement gap. While policymakers attempt to narrow the achievement gap by implementing school reform efforts targeting accountability, leadership, and teacher quality, they neglected other critical social reforms. Rothstein is accompanied by a panel including: Ronald Ferguson, lecturer in public policy, Kennedy School of Government; Dan Koretz, professor of education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Donna Rodrigues, program director, Jobs for the Future, and founder of the University Park Campus School in Worcester, MA. Robert Schwartz, lecturer on education, moderates.

+ BIO: Ronald Ferguson

Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who focuses social science research on economic, social, and educational challenges. He has been on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 1983, after full time appointments at Brandeis and Brown Universities. In 2014, he co-founded Tripod Education Partners and shifted into an adjunct role at the Kennedy School, where he remains a fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI).

During the 1980s and ’90s Ron focused much of his attention on economic and community development. That work culminated in the social science synthesis volume Urban Problems and Community Development (1999), which remains an important text in graduate policy courses.

By the late 1980s, he had begun to study education and youth development because academic skill disparities were contributing to growing wage disparity. During the 1990s and early 2000s, his writings on the topic appeared in publications of the National Research Council, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education, and various books and journals. In December 2007, Harvard Education Press published his book Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap. A February 2011 profile of Ron in the New York Times wrote, “there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.”

Ron’s current focus as AGI director is an initiative entitled the Boston Basics that is spreading to other cities in a Basics National Network. It takes a socio-ecological saturation approach, collaborating with many partners to reach extended families with caregiving advice for infants and toddlers. In addition, Ron is co-authoring a book with journalist Tatsha Robertson on the ways that highly successful people were parented. Ron holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from MIT, both in economics. He has been happily married for 39 years and is the father of two adult sons.

+ BIO: Dan Koretz

Daniel Koretz focuses his research primarily on educational assessment, particularly as a tool of education policy. A primary emphasis in his work has been the effects of high-stakes testing, including effects on schooling and the validity of score gains. His research has included studies of the effects of testing programs, the assessment of students with disabilities, international differences in the variability of student achievement, the application of value-added models to educational achievement, and the development of methods for validating scores under high-stakes conditions.

His current work focuses on the design and evaluation of test-focused educational accountability systems. Dr. Koretz founded and chairs the International Project for the Study of Educational Accountability, an international network of scholars investigating improved approaches to educational accountability. Dr. Koretz is a member of the National Academy of Education. His doctorate is in developmental psychology from Cornell University. Before obtaining his degree, Dr. Koretz taught emotionally disturbed students in public elementary and junior high schools.

+ BIO: Donna Rodrigues

Donna Rodrigues is a Program Director for the Early College Initiative at Jobs for the Future in Boston, Massachusetts. For 35 years prior to this position, she was an outstanding and well-recognized leader in public education. Her success as the founding principal of University Park Campus School (UPCS), a public school collaboration with Clark University, has been well documented by CNN, and featured in the New York and LA Times, and the Christian Science Monitor.

Recently named the highest performing high school in Massachusetts, and ranked number 68 in the top 100 high schools in the country in Newsweek, UPCS is existence proof that the achievement gap for students of color, students living in poverty, and students who are English Language Learners can be challenged and defied. The schools population, students from the most economically challenged part of the city, enters the seventh grade with skills 3 to 4 years behind grade level. These same students have scored advanced or proficient on the states graduation required exam (MCAS), and have been accepted to, and are attending college. The accomplishment is outstanding and exemplary of what can happen. Donna speaks across the country about the challenges and outcomes of a prep school education for all.

+ BIO: Robert Schwartz

Robert Schwartz held a wide variety of leadership positions in education and government before joining the HGSE faculty in 1996. From 1997 to 2002, Schwartz also served as president of Achieve, Inc., an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit organization created by governors and corporate leaders to help states improve their schools. From 1990 to 1996, Schwartz directed the education grantmaking program of The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's largest private philanthropies.

In addition to his work at HGSE, Achieve, and The Pew Charitable Trusts, Schwartz has been a high-school English teacher and principal; an education advisor to the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts; an assistant director of the National Institute of Education; a special assistant to the president of the University of Massachusetts; and executive director of The Boston Compact, a public-private partnership designed to improve access to higher education and employment for urban high-school graduates.

Schwartz has written and spoken widely on topics such as standards-based reform, public-private partnerships, and the transition from high school to adulthood.

Harvard Graduate School of Education
African American Culture Series
Greater Boston: Education Reform Series
Greater Boston: Project Dropout Series