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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Lawrence teachers focus on closing achievement gap

September 22, 2001

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"We face a great challenge in Lawrence," Weseman told the district's high school teachers at the outset of a day-long training session on closing student achievement gaps in the district.

"You will need each other to meet the needs of kids who come through the door."

Here's why:

l Testing of Lawrence students shows wide gaps on state reading and math assessments between whites and minorities as well as children in poor and wealthy families. The divide widens as students progress from elementary school to high school.

l That reflects state trends. For example, 38 percent of black and 27 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders in the state performed at the unsatisfactory level in math, compared to 11 percent of whites.

"Just like the state and nation, we're not doing the job," Weseman said.

All teachers in the district were required Friday to attend instructional workshops on strategies for closing the academic gap.

High school teachers met at Free State, while elementary and junior high instructors convened at Lawrence High School.

Weseman said the days when teachers could close their classroom doors and teach without oversight were gone forever. Everyone from the federal government to local parent groups are looking over the shoulder of public school teachers. More and more accountability measures are put in place to track student progress. Even the mix of students changed in the past quarter century with the inclusion of children with disabilities.

"Teaching has become much more complex," Weseman said. "I have a list of 400 mandates that have been ... inflicted upon us since 1960. We ask you to do so much."

He said there was no way a teacher could respond to the diverse needs of all children without collaboration with other education professionals.

"Our problems will not be alleviated by rugged individualism or the Lone Ranger," the superintendent said. "It was a team that raised the flag at Iwo Jima."

-- Staff writer Tim Carpenter can be reached at 832-7155.

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