The achievement gap: Why it exists and how to make it stop.
The achievement gap refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students defined by gender, race/, ability and socioeconomic status. It has been observed on a variety of measures such as, standardized test scores, grade point average, and dropout rates. There has been a widening educational achievement gap affecting low-income students in recent years, mostly effecting African Americans. CNN reported that in 2007 21 percent of black students dropped out of high school, that’s more than 1 in 5 students. While the dropout rate for white students was 12.2 percent. The NAACP reports that high school graduates from low-income families are more reluctant than their peers to enroll in college immediately after high school. They also report that the rate of African Americans who finish college is low compared to other ethnic groups. Researchers suggest that due to cultural differences between blacks and whites, some black parents may not encourage or stress the importance of early childhood education. As a result, black students tend to begin school with smaller vocabularies that could affect their language skills and the way they retain information. Studies show that students, who have parental support with schoolwork, tend to do better school. This is a problem for most black students, since they typically come from single-parent homes, and often times that one parent is not available. Causing a child to fall behind, or lack motivation. Also children in low-income areas will more than likely attend poorly funded schools where they have fewer educational resources, and less qualified teachers than those schools in upper class districts.
Efforts to close the achievement gap have become a priority. In 2001 the “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” act was passed to ensure that all children have the same educational opportunities. Schools now offer tutoring services, pre-k programs, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has implemented an early childhood education program, that teaches low-income families the importance of pre-school. A new alternative for low-income families who want to provide their children with a good quality education is Charter schools, which are primary, or secondary schools that receive public money or private donations, and are in predominantly urban neighborhoods, and most of the students perform above and beyond the required curriculum than those students who attend poorly funded public schools, and they score proficient or advanced on most state standardized tests. Charter schools are not subject to some of the rules and regulations that apply to other public schools. They are founded by teachers; parents or CEO’s of major corporations who feel restricted by traditional public schools. Some charter schools specialize in certain fields like, math, language etc. Their goal is to provide a better and more efficient general education to inner city children and make sure everyone has the opportunity to go to college. According to a new study from MDRC, a non-profit research group, they key to improving education minority children students may be to close all the large, failing public schools in the country and replace them with a large number of smaller schools. In July 2010, at a National Urban League Conference, President Obama spoke about how in only two years since Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia took over three low performing schools that math and reading levels have nearly doubled, and crime is down 80 percent. Their commitment was to close the achievement gap within three years. Misconduct is not tolerated at Mastery. If a student has three or more instances, than the student and their parents must meet with the board to determine if he/she should be expelled from the school. 100 percent of Mastery’s 2009 graduating class was accepted in either a 2 or 4-year college program, and the students received over $2 million in scholarship support. The teacher’s, staff, and parents have high expectations for the students. Parents are expected to join the Home & School Association and fulfill 30 hours of volunteer hours per year. The student’s grades are loaded on a web portal so that parents can see their child’s progress on a weekly basis. I myself am the proud parent of a Mastery student who will be entering the 8th grade this fall. Last year she made the honor roll three times. The motto at Mastery is “Excellence. No Excuses!”
The achievement gap is costing the country trillions of dollars each year, and although there has been some significant narrowing of the gaps we still have a long haul ahead of us.
Success starts at home! Children are a product of their environment, so give your children the roots to grow, and wings to fly!