The proverbial “Achievement Gap” describes the academic disparity between white and black/Hispanic students in our country. I wonder sometimes: Has the term “Achievement Gap” gotten to the point where it is no longer useful, and might actually worsen the predicament it’s meant to fix?
Talk of the Achievement Gap might be compared to talk of going on a diet. If you’re talking about dieting, it means you probably haven’t lost much weight; and if you do somehow lose weight, you probably will gain it back shortly. We’ve tried lots of things:
Special, targeted programs aimed at boosting black/Hispanic student achievement.
Training to get Caucasian staff members more sensitive to diversity issues and continuing legacies of discrimination.
Programs that succeed at getting minority students into college, only to find out in many cases that the students drop out at high rates.
What’s wrong? Like the word “diet,” Achievement Gap is now an overwhelmingly negative, uninspiring term that conjures up dread among faculty that have heard the same thing for decades, with little change. Can we change the conversation? Can we talk about the Greatness Opportunity? The raw brilliance, power, capability of all our students, and how we develop greatness – rather than decreasing persistent standardized testing gaps between races.
I’ve always had a vision that our youth – ALL OUR YOUTH – are like supreme Jedi waiting to dazzle our world with their power and brilliance. But the Achievement Gap paradigm/lexicon has us training our Jedi to work as servers at the cantina in the rundown bar in Stars Wars 4, and using all our resources to increase their customers served / minute.
The problem isn’t the gap; the problem is the uninspiring and often depressing conversation we have attached ourselves to as a country. Minority kids know instinctively how uninspiring the “The Achievement Gap” paradigm is, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know it too as adults.
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David Vinca is the Founder & CEO of eSpark Learning, which partners with schools to create a personalized learning plan for each student that utilizes iPads and hand-picked educational apps. Before eSpark, David spent four years teaching and four years as a management consultant. David has a BS from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago, where he studied social entrepreneurship.
Maya Lopuch is the Data Scientist at eSpark Learning. Prior to joining eSpark, she was a researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and she holds degrees in Economics and Public Policy from Stanford University and the University of Chicago.
Several times in my career, I’ve talked with inner cities kids who live just a mile from an ocean or a Great Lake, but have never visited. I’m always stunned and saddened when I meet these students. I think, “How could you be so close to something so amazing, and never go?”
What if the same thing happen to all of us, in our own minds? Are there not wondrous places each of us can visit in our own minds and hearts that are but a “mile” away? Places of growth, power, confidence, or forgiveness that would astound us with their beauty and majesty, if we only had the courage and imagination to go?
Where is that place for you? Get a pen; draw a mental map of an Ocean that is just a mile away for you; name your Ocean; and go visit today.
Listen in as Elizabeth Frascoia shares some of the unexpected benefits engaging in music can have, and what this can mean for youth.
Elizabeth Frascoia is a dedicated educator working in New York City and Los Angeles, committed to helping students of all ages gain greater confidence through music. She has worked with over 10,000 students at the elementary, middle, high school, and college levels, as well as with community groups of all ages. Elizabeth is a regular clinician with the Queens College’s Kupferberg Center, NYC’s Musicworks, and the LA Jazz Society’s Jazz in Schools program, and also has a rich career as a freelance trombonist and vocalist. National TV appearances include American Idol, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Good Morning America. Elizabeth holds a BA in Psychology from Harvard University, and an MA in Jazz Vocal Performance from Queens College.
Allan is the Principal of Crone Middle School (Naperville, IL). Allan’s interview shares specific strategies for building a culture of success and respect in a middle school of 1,000 students. You will also learn what he means when he says, “The Crone Way.”
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Meet Clayton Muhammad, one of our keynoters for our upcoming Summer Conference. In this interview with Mawi, Clayton shares how his city reduced homicides from 25 in 2003 to 0 in 2012. Clayton also describes how his innovative Boys II Men program achieves 100% graduation rates.
If you’re looking for innovate ways to build character and leadership in your students, do not miss this interview with Jon Hallmark, Principal of Highland Middle School in Libertyville, IL. Among other things, you will be inspired by how Jon’s students are helping to build schools in Uganda.
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Dr. Arida is the Founder and Chief Excitement Officer at NuVu Studio, a magnet innovation center for young minds. He received his PhD in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology where his doctoral research examined the intricacies of the creative process to understand what creativity is and how an educational environment can nurture creative learning. The architectural studio pedagogy informed this research that eventually evolved into NuVu Studio where students learn in a hands-on environment with coaches who help students create projects and move through many, many iterations.
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Mike Fitzgerald is the principal of Eisenhower Junior High in Darien, IL. He’s always pushed the envelope on holistic student development, and has a keen eye for student leadership and character training. Mike has even shaved his head to inspire his students – listen to find out why!
Peter is the System Principal for the Halton District School Board in Canada, and responsible for leadership and staff development for administrators and teachers at more than 100 schools. He’s a good friend, and also one of the most knowledgeable people you will find on what it takes to inspire and train staff. When Peter’s not busy […]
Just did a really fun keynote for the American Camp Association this morning – and promised to post for them (and you) some of the best research in support of Social Emotional Learning: 1) This meta-analysis of 213 studies shows that SEL training has many benefits, including an 11% increase in student achievement. 2) This […]
Two things make Principal Merrill Mathews special – he knows how to help kids of all backgrounds excel; and he knows how to inspire his staff. In this interview, Merrill and one of his teachers, Michelle Harcourt, share their perspectives on character education, critical thinking, and school leadership. Prepare to be inspired!