First, define 'a good education'

When I hear the phrase "achievement gap," I often have flashbacks to my school days.

There were the advanced reading groups as early as kindergarten; all of us were white, even though many students in our public magnet school were African-American. I didn't notice the discrepancy at that age, but by high school, the frequent coincidence of skin color and academic levels was hard to miss. Still, I don't recall hearing many people talk about it.

Now, people are not just talking about the achievement gap, which is seen along income lines as well as racial ones. They're designing tests to measure it, and passing laws to make schools fix it. But that's not to say everyone's in agreement over why it exists or how to fix it (see story, page 13).

The answers are probably different from place to place, and to get people thinking and talking beyond the buzzwords, the Study Circles Resource Center is offering a new guide: "Dialogue and Action: How to Help Every Student succeed."

As parents, teachers, students, local businesses, and community organizations try to work together to close the gap, the guide can help them start off with structured conversations about what "a good education" means in the first place. They also need to understand one another's perception of the problem, the resource center suggests. Does it stem from different levels of parental involvement? Different expectations - from teachers or society - for students of different backgrounds? Limited resources?

Once these questions have been wrestled with, proposed solutions will be more likely to hit the mark.

(For a copy of the discussion guide, see www.studycircles.org or call the center at 860-928-2616.)

E-mail teichers@csps.com

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