According to Madeline Hafner, Executive Director of the Minority Student Achievement Network, three public school districts in the network are notable for their progress in narrowing achievement gaps: Arlington, Virginia; Evanston Township, Illinois; and Shaker Heights, Ohio. Like MMSD, all three districts are founding members of MSAN
Arlington Superintendent Robert Smith’s efforts have been called “one of the most sustained assaults on the achievement gap ever seen in this area” and are the subject of his book “Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds, and Practice.”
During Smith’s 1997-2009 tenure as superintendent, the gap between non-Hispanic white and black students on Virginia Standards of Learning tests dropped from 45 to 19 percentage points. Between non-Hispanic white and Hispanic students, it dropped from 35 to 12 percentage points.
Some of the tools used by Smith and colleagues included a data-driven system of monitoring student progress that went well beyond No Child Left Behind’s tracking of reading and math scores, more realistic goals than reaching 100 percent proficiency by a specific date and working with staff to address institutionalized racism.
In Evanston Township, efforts have included increased professional development for teachers, a new algebra program and the elimination of ninth-grade honors-only tracks for the sciences and humanities. Previously, participation in honors classes had been based on eighth-grade standardized test results, resulting in almost exclusive eligibility of white students.
While the de-tracking policy has been controversial, it has been backed by a student support group called Team ASAP (Access and Success in Advanced Placement) that has grown to include 250 members. According to a May 2015 PBS news program, the number of students obtaining an AP score that may earn college credit has increased by 31 percent for white students, by 98 percent for black students, and by 116 percent for Latino students.
Policies that Shaker Heights credits with reducing achievement gaps include becoming an international baccalaureate district and supporting the minority achievement committee (MAC) that was initiated by high-achieving African American students in 1990, nine years before MSAN was established. Today, the MAC Scholars program is a highly successful mentoring program led by juniors and seniors whose specific goal is to improve the academic achievement of younger black male students.