A young woman, dark lined eyes forward, walking with a fast determined pace. She pushes one child in a stroller while another holds the side trying to keep up. She is brown, straight black hair pulled back or neat tight cornrow braids.
You pass her by, sweat trickling down your own back in the 90 degree heat, even in your air conditioned car. Chances are if you are white, preconceptions flutter through your brain subconsciously. These families don’t value education, aren’t capable, and are doomed to violence or a drug lifestyle.
This image that passes through your consciousness so casually as to barely be recorded is the face of the Achievement Gap.
Achievement Gap: A polite and sterile euphemism thrown around a lot these days by educators, politicians and social service organizations. The gap is more like an achievement crevasse into which roughly 50 percent of nonwhite students fall, to the reckless indifference of planners and educators.
“Persistent disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students …defined by gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.” US Dept Education
Middle class whites disengage from the Achievement Gap because they don’t feel it personally affects them. (Isthmus March 2012) Statistics on youthful pregnancy and increased interactions with the criminal justice system for children who fail in school tell a different story. Like an interconnected ecosystem, we can’t allow any part to die without affecting another.
“Good teachers can actually close or eliminate the gaps in achievement on the standardized tests that separate white and minority students.” Brookings Institution
Success is possible. Studies have shown that helping teachers examine their own attitude and belief systems regarding other races and cultures helps them to reach out to white and nonwhite students equally. Organizations like Teachingtolerance.org and the National Education Association help teachers move beyond conscious and unconscious preconceptions and stereotypes that keep all our children from being locked forever in that chasm called the Achievement Gap.