ETS Identifies Factors Affecting Student AchievementThe Educational Testing Service (ETS) released a report last month detailing more than a dozen factors related to student achievement. “The gaps in student achievement mirror inequalities in those aspects of school, early life and home circumstances that research has linked to achievement,” says Paul Barton, author of the study, “Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for Tracking Progress.”The report explores the factors affecting students in three core categories: early development, school environment and the home. In the early development area, factors affecting future student achievement include weight at birth, exposure to lead poisoning, nutrition and hunger.In the school environment area, the factors include teacher preparation and experience, and the rigor of the school curriculum. Other factors include the level of technology in the classroom, class size and school safety.The home environment is as important as what goes on in the school, the report says. Important factors include parental involvement in their children’s education, how much parents read to young children, how much TV children are allowed to watch and how often students change schools.“This research shows that the achievement gap is not only about what goes on once kids get into the classroom. It’s also about what happens to them before and after school,” says Sharon Robinson, president of the ETS Educational Policy Leadership Institute. “This report serves as a reminder that each of us — parents, teachers and policy-makers — has a crucial role to play to make sure that every child becomes a high achiever.”The report shows that minority and poor students disproportionately face conditions that hinder their achievement, relative to majority students, from birth through their completion of school. “Inequality is like an unwanted guest who comes early and stays late,” the report says. A more effective education policy would seek to affect each one of the factors outlined in the report, it says.In the conclusion of the report, the study’s author takes several thinly veiled swipes at the No Child Left Behind Act and the school reform movement. Barton writes that education policy must go beyond establishing standards for curriculum, achievement levels and measures of accountability.“Denying the role of these outside happenings — or the impact of a student’s home circumstances — will not help to endow teachers and schools with the capacity to reduce achievement gaps,” the report’s conclusion says. “Also, insistence that it can all be done in the school may be taken to provide excuses for public policy, ignoring what is necessary to prevent learning gaps from opening.”
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