As I adjust to a new grade level within a new school and district, I have pondered more about why our black and brown students are underachieving. Furthermore; how can there be so much variation in achievement across classrooms and districts between students of similar backgrounds?
How is it possible for one classroom of second grade students to be years behind their peers across the district? One of the most prevalent differences I have seen is the correlation between expectations and performance. According to a National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) study, teachers' expectations impact student success more than a student's own motivation. Reviewing beginning of the year reading assessments that showed second graders below kindergarten reading expectations was alarming. Immediately I thought of incarceration and low literacy - the terrifying research that has equated third grade reading levels to incarceration. I don’t want any student to be this statistic.
When will we recognize and acknowledge that we are in a state of emergency? When will we take steps to close the opportunity gap? Addressing the system and adjusting policies to ensure equitable funding and resources are available to all schools is the first step. But also acknowledging that this is not an achievement gap if we as the adults and professionals are not providing what the students need to succeed. It’s not an achievement gap because that term blames the student for not achieving versus looking at the real differences in opportunity that some of these students never receive. Instead of blaming students, let us review the “system” and adjust our approach for teaching.
Let us call it what it is, an opportunity gap.