OPPORTUNITY: a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.
GAP: a break or hole in an object or between two objects.
These words defined separately don’t have the same meaning as when they are placed together. Together, these words showcase the disparity in access and ability to have a high quality education for some kids. And it’s not the kids’ fault.
Let me paint a picture for you. The opportunity gaps in our schools are two very different extremes:
Some public schools have excellent educators, the latest curriculum, 1:1 technology, state-of-the-art buildings, classrooms with smart boards, great music programs, and lunches that are appetizing. These same schools offer exposure to inspirational and life-changing resources, experiences and opportunities. They have class trips to Washington D.C.
Other public schools aren’t as privileged. Some schools lack the opportunities listed above. They don’t have the support needed to help traumatized children living in poverty. These schools have high suspension rates, failing test scores, low teacher retention, weak policies, procedures and leadership, libraries with outdated materials, and lunches that wealthier families would never imagine serving to their kids.
Again, this is not the kids’ fault. These schools need more support and more resources to help children who have been let down. They need teachers who stick around and funding to ensure they can provide the same educational opportunities and experiences as privileged schools offer.
These opportunity gaps in our schools only grow wider as our children get older. And the evidence of these gaps shows up in the form of the mass incarceration of our black and brown men and women across our country. These opportunity gaps are evident when we see the majority of people in positions of power – politicians, professionals, executives, lawyers, doctors – being predominantly white.
I have experienced the opportunity gap firsthand. As a child who was transient most of my life with over 37 different addresses within Indianapolis, I attended several schools – some township and some within IPS. My experiences in these schools were vastly different, as different as the pictures I painted above.
As a mom of three, I worry about the growing opportunity gap. I want my children to be able to access the highest level of quality educational training they could possibly have. Without a quality education, too many children end up in the continuous cycle of trauma, poverty, incarceration and death.
By working together, people like you and me who care about public education can close opportunity gaps and give more children access to the quality education and opportunities they deserve.