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Who will address school achievement gap?

Which Maryland gubernatorial candidate will effectively address our state's education achievement gap ("Brown for governor," Oct. 26)?

The achievement gap is rooted in the low socio-economic, high-density life situation of the affected students. Effects of this sort of life situation include these five deficiencies: No sense of planning or organization regarding school, no sense of purpose for school, or progress in school, no place to study or prepare for school, no academic or career goals and numerous distractions in personal life, thus reducing or eliminating any sense of focus on school

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The result is a high percentage of high school graduates, particularly in our inner-cities, who are not prepared to take further steps in their education. These students lack both confidence and academic depth to move on to college or technical training. Most of these students graduate with a grade point average of less than 2.0 and do not know how to be effective students. Intelligence is not the issue. Lack of focus on academic performance is the issue.

Because these deficiencies are rooted in home-life conditions, the actual problem cannot be addressed by schools. However, schools can address the deficiencies during the school day and perhaps in after-school programs as well. But this sort of effort requires focus and action by school administrators.

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Both gubernatorial candidates clearly advocate empowering individual school administrations to address the needs of their disengaged, low-achieving student populations. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown states this as the eighth point in his 10 point plan to address the achievement gap: Empower teachers to identify and address achievement disparities. Larry Hogan stated in the first debate that he would address the achievement gap on a school-by-school basis. Clearly, both candidates understand the achievement gap is not a problem that has one general solution but must be addressed by each individual school's administration.

If Mr. Brown is elected, however, the goal of empowering individual school administrations to address the achievement gap would be severely limited if not eliminated. He will impose high priority demands on school administrators including Common Core and the related federally mandated testing. Mr. Brown's questionable pre-kindergarten initiative would be costly, and thus will take away from efforts to address the achievement gap.

It is important to note that neither Common Core nor pre-K will do anything to address the achievement gap deficiencies listed above. Common Core will continue to dictate priorities in schools that force administrators to ignore the achievement gap. Pre-K does not address the achievement gap because a child's pre-K experience has no effect on the low socio-economic life situation a student may face while in high school.

Larry Hogan, on the other hand, is willing to "press the pause button" on Common Core. He understands that pushing federal policy into local school systems prevents the schools from addressing specific needs of their student populations. Mr. Hogan also understands that in order for our high schools to graduate effective students (both in our inner-city and our suburban schools), school administrators must be empowered to implement programs that target their unique disengaged student populations.

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Addressing the achievement gap requires focus by school administrators. The governor who allows school administrations to address the needs of their school without the ball-and-chain of federal mandates will be the governor who effectively addresses the education achievement gap.

Chris Fallon

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