Understanding the Achievement Gap

What is the Achievement Gap?

For years, educators have noticed that academic performances—such as test scores, enrollment in college prep classes, high school graduation rates, college admission rate and college graduation rates-- of African American and Hispanic students are lower than those rates for Asian and White students. Some Black and Hispanic families found that their students’ scores on state and local tests were disappointing, especially in relation to other students. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has documented this phenomenon at the national level since 1973. The 2017 scores on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) also documented this pattern at the state level. This pattern of differences in student performances creates a phenomenon called the Academic Achievement Gap.

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Who does the Academic Achievement Gap affect?

The Achievement Gap affects everyone in our economy. The real concern for parents is not merely the existence of the achievement gap; but rather, its real effect on children who are in the lower end of the student performance spectrum being chronically left behind. Failure to master the basics in lower grades reduces the likelihood of success, later in life, in colleges and careers. Lack of preparation for success in college and careers limits future scholastic and job opportunities. Failure to address the achievement gap among students leads to the lower performers attributing to higher unemployment and incarceration rates in our society. Whatever parents and educators do early in a student’s progression through school will pay off significantly in their students’ success in school and in life.

“After many years of experience as an educational practitioner and researcher, I have concluded that African American students attend institutions that are structurally ill-equipped to meet their basic academic needs. Any efforts to close the Achievement Gap must focus on system/structural level reform, versus creating new programs...”
Dr. Edward C. Bush, President, Cosumnes River College

Empowering Educators, Students and Families

Fortune & Associates’ resource materials, including books and videos for educators and parents of grade-school kids, offer hope and assistance for parents and educators who want to improve the lives of students, especially those who are not currently successful in school. Our books and videos are tools for adults who are willing to work toward getting positive outcomes of schooling for their students.

The best use of these resource materials is in small focus groups that encourages conversations among people who plan to use the materials. While individual use is better than no use, these materials are best valued when there is an opportunity to exchange strategies based on discussion of the materials.

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Your opportunity to browse and review research-based findings and feedback from parents that participated in the Parenting Academy experience.

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Parenting Academy Results

Most of the impact data from using our resource materials is based upon exit evaluations of parents who participated in Parent Academy sessions at Fortune School of Education. These Parent Academy sessions used our Parenting Practices Academy Binder and Parenting Practices Booklet as their training session guide and training materials. Compared to scholars whose parents did not attend Fortune Schools’ Parent Academy, scholars whose parents did attend the Parent Academy sessions, using our Parenting Practices resource materials, outperformed other scholars at Fortune Schools on every academic metric. This finding is supported by the below analytical summary of Fortune Schools’ 2018 Parent Academy Evaluation Report.

The impact on using our Bridging the Achievement Gap – Second Edition book is best ascertained by reviews from education experts who reviewed the book. Their reviews of Bridging the Achievement Gap – Second Edition are located below Fortune School’s Parent Academy Evaluation Report.

Parent Academy Evaluation Report: Jan-Mar 2018 Cohort

160 parents participated in Fortune Schools’ Parent Academy, between January and March of 2018, which was 9% of the possible number of parents who could have attended. Over a third were from Hardy Brown College Prep, one of Fortune Schools’ sites, located in San Bernardino, California. This is impressive given the fact that only a fifth of Fortune Schools’ scholars attend Hardy Brown. Also noteworthy is the fact that nearly three-quarters of attendees had scholars in grades K-3, while only 64% of Fortune scholars are in those grades.


Statistics of Attendees Reactions

Virtually all attendees learned from Parent Academy, found the vast majority of sessions helpful, and would recommend Parent Academy to others.


Percentage of Comparison Chart

Compared to scholars whose parents did not attend Parent Academy, scholars whose parents attended outperformed on every academic metric. This includes classwork (grades determined entirely by teachers, often including homework, participation, and projects), assessments (which are internal and standard across all Fortune schools), and NWEA (which are national, standardized tests that scholars take in conditions that mirror the annual state assessments).

Scholars whose parents attended Parent Academy had very similar behavior to other scholars. They were slightly more likely to be removed from class, but the difference was extremely small (14% vs. 13%) and not all removals are reported. Additionally, both groups of students were similarly likely to get suspended.

Finally, scholars whose parents attended had substantially better attendance than other scholars. They had lower tardy rates (8.7% vs. 10.7%) and absence rates (3.3% vs. 4.4%)!

The table above represents our first attempt to associate student performance measures with participation of parents in the Parent Academy. This is a nascent science, but it deserves continuing consideration.

What do education experts say about our Bridging the Achievement Gap – Second Edition book?

  • “I strongly encourage all who have interest in issues related to bridging the Achievement Gap in our public education system to read Rex Fortune’s new book. He highlights the successful practices that many public schools, including charter schools, are implementing to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the Achievement Gap, and rightly focuses on the need to advocate with greater courage for the kinds of reforms and resources needed for underserved students to access high-quality options to reach their potential.”
    Jed Wallace, President and CEO, California Charter Schools Association
  • “Rex Fortune is interested in what works, and why we aren’t doing more of it. By looking at California public schools where students outperform similar peers at other schools, and asking what those high-performing schools have in common (strong leadership, engaged teachers, involved parents), Dr. Fortune demonstrates that the Achievement Gap is a measure not of the limits of the students’ ability, but of the adults’ imagination and political will. He offers concrete suggestions for eliminating the Gap, from the politically difficult – changing the state school funding formula – to the heartbreakingly achievable – producing and using systematic, on-going research about what works. No one who cares about equity in education can afford to ignore this clear, powerful book.”
    Dr. Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • “After many years of experience as an educational practitioner and researcher, I have concluded that African American students attend institutions that are structurally ill-equipped to meet their basic academic needs. Any efforts to close the Achievement Gap must focus on system/structural level reform, versus creating new programs. Toward this end, I am excited about the Second Edition of Bridging Achievement Gap. Rex Fortune places the schooling structure at the center of his analysis, which is particularly evident in his call to reform legislation through the modification of California Education Code 42238.02 to include all African American students. This is bold and critical new step will provide the necessary resources and attention towards African American students. It has the potential to substantively move the needle for outcomes with the hope of finally bridging the Gap.”
    Dr. Edward C. Bush, President, Cosumnes River College
  • “Education in the United States falls short compared to other countries. There is a huge gap in academic achievement for American students, but specifically students of color. The question is how and when will we bridge the Achievement Gap? Rex Fortune has identified a plausible solution in the Second Edition. I urge you to read this amazing book, support and join the efforts of educators to identify appropriate “high needs” groups and allow for new laws to implement change. Failure is not an option for our students”
    Ramona R. Wilder, CEO, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy
  • “These independent school studies demonstrate the reproducibility of the science and art of Quality Education, which provides a basis for closing or eliminating the Achievement Gap. If we know about the Gap and care about the Gap, then collectively we must act with agency and urgency to eliminate the Gap. These schools verify and provide proof that it can be done – if there is a collective will.”
    Eugene Fisher, Founder, Watts Learning Center
  • “By understanding that policy and funding are associated with best practices, teacher and leader preparation programs are able to develop pathways for research such as Bridging the Achievement Gap, Second Edition. These pathways facilitate an equitable decision- making process, ensuring educational supports for high-needs populations as with Assembly Bill 2635.”
    Scott Loehr, Superintendent, Center Unified School District
  • “This is a great book focused on the dialogue of helping students win. The dialogue talks less about competition and more about collaboration. The essence of the charter school movement was to create a system that would allow for innovation in addressing student achievement in public education. In Chapter 5, ‘The Solution’ offers educators and parents’ solutions to closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps that have long plagued students of color, whether that student attends a charter school or a traditional comprehensive school. Thank you, Rex Fortune, for focusing on solutions and not casting blame.”
    Mike Walsh, President, California School Boards Association