“Achievement gap mania” hasn’t helped improves reading and math scores much for blacks and Hispanics, writes Matthew Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog. But we can’t give up.
Black and Hispanic fourth graders read as well as the average first or second-grade Anglo student on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Ladner writes.
The focus on the achievement gap is important because it cuts to the heart of American ideals. We believe in equality of opportunity. We believe in meritocracy. We believe in class mobility and self-determination. Call it the triumph of hope over experience if you wish, but we believe that public education can help achieve all of this and we refuse to give up on the notion.
Spending more on low-income students should help, but hasn’t, he adds. Paul Hill at the University of Washington has a theory:
Money is used so loosely in public education—in ways that few understand and that lack plausible connections to student learning—that no one can say how much money, if used optimally, would be enough. Accounting systems make it impossible to track how much is spent on a particular child or school, and hide the costs of programs and teacher contracts. Districts can’t choose the most cost-effective programs because they lack evidence on costs and results.
Instead of changing the system, we make excuses for the failure of disadvantaged students, Ladner writes.
Blah blah poverty yadda yadda video games. Whatever. I’m not saying that achievement gaps are the sole responsibility of schools, or that we will live to see them completely closed. I agree with Rick Hess that there are serious shortcomings to a reform strategy solely based on gaps.
We can however do a hell of a lot better than this. We focus on achievement gaps not because it is expedient, but because it is necessary.
I agree. If low-income students all got good teachers using well-designed curricula in well-run schools . . . They’d do better than they do now.
At Dropout Nation, RiShawn Biddle is crusading for more achievement gap mania.
. . . American public education serves up mediocrity to many of the kids it serves — and abject malpractice to its poorest children, to black and Latino kids regardless of their levels of wealth, to children in foster care, and to the young men and women its teachers and administrators relegate to the academic ghettos of special education.
Look at the widening achievement gap between boys and girls, Biddle adds.
“We should all be outraged that our tax dollars sustain a system in which 1.2 million children are condemned to poverty before they even have a chance to determine their own paths in life.”