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Teachers, Educators Come Together to Tackle PA Student Achievement Gap

March 30, 2009

Harrisburg, PA - Why do some students in Pennsylvania schools thrive, while others don't? That's a question educators and administrators from across the state hope to get answers to during a conference next week in Harrisburg. It's being put together by the Pennsylvania Learning First Alliance, made up of a dozen education and child advocacy groups that want to take a closer look at the student achievement gap.

James Testerman, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says that gap can start before a child ever walks into a classroom.

"Some children arrive in kindergarten knowing how to spell their first and last names, knowing their letters and their colors, and others arrive in kindergarten really never having had any of those educational experiences."

The U.S. Department of Education says the No Child Left Behind Act is helping to close the gap through student testing and by holding schools accountable for children's academic progress.

Testerman says testing has helped uncover the achievement gap, but that students learn better and succeed more often in an environment that looks beyond test scores.

"We know that a rich and diverse curriculum really does promote more student learning than does focusing on just reading and math tests."

As to whether the problem is one centered on the educational system's priorities, Testerman says more important than who's at fault, is having a constructive dialogue on finding answers and leveling the playing field.

"Not to cast blame. Not to say that it's all the responsibility of any one group. We really do need to work together because we're all in this together and we each play a critical role."

More than 200 educators and school officials from across Pennsylvania are expected to take part in the
first-of-its-kind conference.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA