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"America's biggest public education challenge today may be the persistent and dramatic achievement gap between black students and white students. If we could close that gap and truly equalize educational achievement between the races, most of our other socioeconomic debates would just go away."

So says Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and essayist of the 60-minute documentary, Closing the Achievement Gap. Despite decades of acknowledging the problem, public schools around the country, especially in urban areas, have been largely unable to substantially reduce or eliminate the gap. For many Americans, this is the next great phase of the Civil Rights Revolution.

"Do we have any good model schools that have closed the gap?" asks Mr. Page in the documentary. "The answer is yes, we do. One of them is right here in New Haven, Connecticut—a public charter school called Amistad Academy." The school was founded in 1999 by a group of Yale Law School students who enlisted the help of local business and community leaders. The idea was this: students from low-income inner city backgrounds could perform just as well as better off suburban students, if they had a school that offered proper support—inside and outside the classroom.

Amistad serves about 250 students in grades five through eight. The children enter the school in the fifth grade, on average more than two years below grade level. But by the time they leave the school at the end of the eighth grade, most of these urban students are doing as well or better than their suburban counterparts.

All of Amistad's students are chosen through the same lottery system as other public middle schools in the district. That means Amistad cannot skim high achievers. It has the same student mix as any other New Haven school. Currently, the demographics of the students are as follows: 66 percent of students are African American, 33 percent are Latino, and 2 percent are white. Additionally, 87 percent of students qualify for federal free or reduced lunch.

From the first day of school for new 5th Graders to graduation day for 8th Graders, from new teachers receiving training in the summer to teachers discussing the high classroom expectations, Closing the Achievement Gap has captured the community that is Amistad Academy.

Interviews with parents, teachers, students, and administrators provide personal perspectives on the school and discuss the keys to Amistad's success. The program also features interviews with several education experts including Christopher Jencks, Professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and co-editor of the book, The Black-White Test Score Gap; Connecticut's former Education Commissioner Theodore Sergi; Patricia Lucan, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers; and Natalie Missakian, education reporter for the New Haven Register.

Closing the Achievement Gap is a production of the Corporation for Educational Radio and Television (CERT).

To download the Closing the Achievement Gap transcript, click here



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