Closing the Gap

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

(Click here to see a copy of the district report. It begins on page four.)

Black, white, Hispanic.

Boy, girl.

Wealthy, poor.

Across the country, there are substantial gaps in how well kids do in school along those lines.

Lansing is no exception. For example, white fourth graders in Lansing score about 18 percent better in Math than black students. In reading, the gap is at about 10 percent.

"Our gap in Lansing is nowhere as significant as the national gap," Lansing school board Treasurer Jack Davis said.

Still, the district wants to close that gap. So it's studying how best to do that. Davis, who worked on the study, says one of the keys is a relatively new teaching technique called differentiated instruction.

"Which means that the teacher is supposed to understand the situation with each student: reading skills, comprehension skills, attention deficits," Davis explained.

He says the more individualistic approach can be difficult, but it's worth it to be able to teach students as individuals and not just as a group.

To get that information, more testing is required, but that's not the only thing that needs to be assessed.

The study says teachers who have closed the gap in their classrooms learned about the home lives of their children and what those children are taught to value.

Another recommendation: consider requiring teachers to live near Lansing.

State law doesn't allow the district to tell teachers what city they can live it, but it can force them to live within 20 miles.

"If you're living in a remote area such as Howell and you're commuting into a Lansing school, which has 75 percent minorities and 60 percent a poverty level," Davis said.

"Yeah, you're going to have a lot of trouble understanding what's going on in the community so you can relate to the issues presented to these youngsters."

He says that change is not an especially high priority. It's just one of the many study recommendations to make sure all kids learn in Lansing.

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