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January 31, 2013

Can “Deeper Learning” Close the Achievement Gap?

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A new style of learning that seeks to encourage alternatives to the traditional classroom environment through “deeper learning experiences,” is becoming a national education trend. It focuses on empowering students with real world skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration alongside academics to prepare students for a more competitive, globalized world outside of school.

Despite the effort of the No Child Left Behind Act to elevate the quality of the nation’s academics over the last 12 years, an achievement gap persists between students of different racial, ethnic, regional and economic backgrounds.

While a January 22 report by the National Center for Education Statistics celebrated that high school graduation rates are at their highest level since1974, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned the dropout rate is still “unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high in our African- American, Latino and Native American communities.”

King Middle School, which, “serves the most racially, ethnically, and economically diverse neighborhoods in the state of Maine,” said that the expeditionary “deeper learning” style is vital to keeping their entire student body engaged and developing real-world skills

Similarly hands-on learning programs are being implemented successfully at different types of schools. At  P.S.-130 in Brooklyn, N.Y., elementary school students are learning about Native American culture through puppet making instruction from a visiting artist, while at Telecommunication Arts and Technology High School, also in Brooklyn,  students worked with their AP statistics class to create and  take exit polls during the 2012 election.


“Having a growth mind-set vs. a fixed mind-set, so the idea that intelligence is not something that you’re born with, but it’s something that you can get good at if you put in effort,” – Katie Hong, The Raikes Foundation.

Warm up questions

1. What is the “achievement gap”?

2. How do you best learn information? Through reading, hand-on activities, lectures, etc.?

3. What keeps you engaged in school?

Discussion questions

1. Why do you think it is important to get a high school diploma?

2. What might cause a person to drop out of school, or achieve at a lower level than they are capable?

3. Do you think you would like to learn in this type of school? Why or why not?

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