It’s Time to Stop Using Terms Like “Achievement Gap” & “Student Success”

studentsuccess

Reposted from the Hechinger Report:

The sobering data on men of color in colleges is a reflection of college and university performance – so take the scrutiny off of student achievement. Outcomes for male collegians of color are lagging because postsecondary leaders aren’t held accountable for changing them.

If scholars want to rid themselves of deficit approaches (looking at weaknesses) moving forward, then we must stop using the deficit language in our speech and research. Acceptance of constructs like the achievement gap, drop out, student success and data driven may legitimize you in the academy, but they are complicit in promoting the verbal and statistical rhetoric that avoids the problem of institutional accountability.

The inferred white male referent in the achievement gap construct contributes to the centuries old logic that others should be compared to whites. On its face the idea of student success lets institutional factors of the hook, which have been shown to be at least half of the reason why men of color are pushed out of college. Educators shouldn’t be data driven. We should be community driven and use data to support students. These distinctions aren’t some semantic ruse. If scholars want a revolution in how students are treated in the academy, then we must be willing to question how statistics have been used to facilitate poor outcomes among black and Latino male students.

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Boutin: We are Trying to Close the Achievement Gap All Wrong

marchonthegap

Reposted from the Washington Post:

There may be ways in school to make up for some of the deficits of skills and knowledge our culture believes to be important to competition in the marketplace. What I finally realized, in my ninth year, is that I do not support  current attempts  to “narrow the achievement gap” in school alone. Why? What we mostly mean when we talk about narrowing the achievement gap is finding ways to get students of color to score as well on standardized tests as white students do. As Hart and Risley’s work suggests, skills and knowledge essential to performing well on standardized tests (like vocabulary) are not easily gained, particularly when a student’s social-emotional issues (and perhaps hunger or lack of safety) stop them from focusing in school.

Does public education have a history of doing disservice to poor children of color in our country? Absolutely! Is it because they haven’t closed the achievement gap? Ironically, I would say schools continue to disservice students because they’re so hellbent on closing the achievement gap of standardized test scores. Schools leaders who focus on closing the achievement gap often do things such as reduce or eliminate art, music, social studies, recess; and, instead, spend lots of time analyzing student performance on math, reading, and writing tests in an effort to improve those skills. These skills are certainly vital, but this kind of schooling comes with grave costs.

It’s time education policymakers seriously acknowledge that we live in a tremendously unequal and unjust society that creates the problems we see in schools before students ever even arrive there. Students need to feel safe, to feel loved, to eat, to sleep, and to have friends before they can engage in learning. When students don’t feel safe or loved or are hungry, they don’t learn very well, if at all. The students who often don’t have their social-emotional needs met in and out of school are the same students who are on the bottom end of the achievement gap; force feeding them a simple diet of only math and language down their throat becomes becomes  inhumane.

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Is Free & Equitable “Public” Education a Myth?

diversity

Reposted from Salon:

The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement. On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia. The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing. It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.

As we segregate by income into different communities, schools in lower-income areas have fewer resources than ever. The result is widening disparities in funding per pupil, to the direct disadvantage of poor kids. The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one. What are called a “public schools” in many of America’s wealthy communities aren’t really “public” at all. In effect, they’re private schools, whose tuition is hidden away in the purchase price of upscale homes there, and in the corresponding property taxes.

Rather than pay extra taxes that would go to poorer districts, many parents in upscale communities have quietly shifted their financial support to tax-deductible “parent’s foundations” designed to enhance their own schools. About 12 percent of the more than 14,000 school districts across America are funded in part by such foundations. They’re paying for everything from a new school auditorium (Bowie, Maryland) to a high-tech weather station and language-arts program (Newton, MA). “Parents’ foundations,” observed the Wall Street Journal, “are visible evidence of parents’ efforts to reconnect their money to their kids.” And not, it should have been noted, to kids in another community, who are likely to be poorer.

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