Parsing the Achievement Gap

Teachers Leaving By the End of the Year

My students commonly  insist that family support and family values are major determinants of success in school.  I can’t really argue with that.  We might hope that all kids go home to families who encourage them to  learn and to dream big.

Yet I ask them what would happen if, somehow, we did attain this. If all parents checked homework every day and left college brochures on their children’s  pillows, would children then experience equal outcomes in school?  A new report released by ETS, Parsing the Achievement GapII (pdf attached below) documents that relative to middle-class children and white children, low-income and minority children:

  • are less likely to be taught by certified teachers
  • are more likely to attend schools with high teacher absenteeism and teacher turn-over
  • learn in bigger classes
  • report issues of fear and safety in school
  • be taught by inexperienced teachers

Data is also reported on low birth rates, access to the internet, exposure to mercury and lead, and hunger.  Low-income and minority kids are at the losing end on all counts.

If learning is highly correlated with values, it would seem that we might do well to  value these children enough to invest in equitable childhoods.  Perhaps we could divert at least some of the energy that we collectively invest in fretting over undone homework worksheets to these bigger questions of basic  health and basic educational quality.

Next year, my students will be reading his report.

Parsing the Achievement Gap (pdf)

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3 thoughts on “Parsing the Achievement Gap

  1. Laura May 23, 2009 / 8:36 am

    …and so will mine! They’ll also be reading your blog. Thanks for what you’re doing. Brilliant, important stuff.

  2. Jeanne May 24, 2009 / 6:58 pm

    I just finished reading a New Yorker article (“The Instigator”, May 11) about some efforts in Los Angeles to remake the worst of the worst schools. A talented teacher who’d grown up himself in a school in Watts went back to the LA school district, hoping to change the lives of kids from his neighborhood. But he was told he was too talented for that school.

    Lemme repeat that. Too talented for poor kids of color.

    Just an anecdote of what the report states.

    • janevangalen May 26, 2009 / 5:38 am

      My students get all sorts of grief about just deciding to be teachers, let alone teachers in poor schools, because “they could do so much more”. It’s amazing that the rhetoric of deep faith in schools to equalize opportunities (if only we can get test scores up) exists side-by-side with such disparagement of kid and their teachers.

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