Last year, only 16 percent of African American students at Jose Ortega Elementary in San Francisco were proficient in English language arts. In one year, that number went up to 24 percent.
"I did something kind of bold. I asked the teachers to focus on all the African American students and create these individual learning plans," says school Principal Jo Lynne Washington.
The learning plans set goals for those students. It's been successful, but there is still much work to be done.
On Tuesday, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth will present a resolution to the San Francisco School Board. The goal is to have 60 percent of all students, of every race, proficient in math and reading and on track for college by 2011.
"I think it's achievable, absolutely," says school Superintendent Carlos Garcia.
Garcia and the board are currently working on the district's so-called strategic plan, which also focuses on closing this gap, but one year later.
One way is by holding every department within the district accountable. Each one will get a scorecard.
"Mainly address student achievement, access and equity and accountability. In other words keeping our promises to the families and children we serve," says Garcia
Schools like Jose Ortega, which are closing the achievement gap, will be examples for other schools.
"If you keep on doing the same old things, you are going to get the same old results, so if it's not working for you and your classroom , it's good to talk to your colleague about what is working for them," says Washington.
At the federal level, the No Child Left Behind law states that every child should be working at grade level by 2014. It's a goal so unrealistic, that lawmakers like Congressman George Miller proposed changes. But congress has been unable to pass an updated version of the law.
It had so much more punitive work in it that it was totally unacceptable. The education community rose up and said we simply will not take this form," says Dennis Kelly of the United Educators of San Francisco.
Without a renewal, the old No Child Left Behind remains as is.