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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