New York City School Superintendent Joel Klein and Al Sharpton, a curious coupling to be sure, argue in their 1/1/2/09 Op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that all we need is high quality teachers to close the pernicious achievement gap. (Interestingly the title of the editorial is "Charter Schools Can Close the Education Gap"--perhaps wishful thinking on the part of the editor?).
Here's how to close the gap. Start with a three-word solution they say: Teachers, teachers, teachers; add in a bit of national standards and national assessments, and there you go--high quality achievement for all children.
Doesn't this strike you as a bit odd for the leader of a school district to say that teachers are the problem? And not the devastating circumstances of poverty and disadvantage that affect the children in the city? Isn't it curious that more rigorous standards and more rigorous testing are seen as the solution--a new get tough No Child Left Behind policy--and not more high quality early childhood education, and after-school programs when we know the data so strongly argue for the effects they can have on children's lives.
Quality teachers, quality standards, good tests, as important as they are, will not close the achievement gap. We need a broader, bolder approach to education--one that mobilizes other institutions--health clinics, libraries, community based organizations working with schools to change the odds for children in disadvantaged communities.