Achievement Gap in Schools

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Running Heading: ACHIEVEMENT GAP IN SCHOOLS

The Achievement Gap in Schools and What Can Be Done to Close it Laura L. Pandiani
Assumption College

Abstract
This paper explores the struggle of the achievement gap in schools. The achievement gap refers to the inequality in educational achievement among groups of students determined as disadvantaged minorities and those of less disadvantaged, usually white. The gap is a constant battle with no clear way as to how to fix it. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, highest level of education, dropout rates, and college enrollment and completion rates. While most of the data presented in this paper comes from the United States, similar gaps exist for these groups in other nations. By making more people aware of this problem, rewarding our teachers, and changing what these kids experience before entering school; we may be able to narrow the gap for these students so they can all achieve equally.

The Achievement Gap in Schools and What Can Be Done to Close it The gap in achievement that separates disadvantaged students and students of color from less disadvantaged students has been the focus of discussion in schools for nearly 40 years. Today, the average black or Hispanic high school student currently achieves at about the same level as the average white student in the lowest quartile of white achievement (Pawlenty, 2009). Black and Hispanic students are much more likely than white students to fall behind in school and drop out, and much less likely to graduate from high school, acquire a college or advanced degree, or earn a middle-class living. Unfortunately, less than 17% of African American and Latino students will finish high school and graduate from college (Wagner, 2008). Although black and Hispanic students all scored much higher on tests than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.The 1990s, however, were another matter. In some subjects and grade levels, the gaps started growing; in others, they were stagnant (Kerachsky, 2010). There is no set reason to why the gap has grown, but researchers have identified factors that contribute to its widening and suggestions for narrowing the gap. The achievement gap will be narrowed if we as a society become more aware of the issue and we use this awareness to make change in education to see what really works and reward our teachers who help improve students’ achievement. The achievement gap is a matter of race and class. The gap is the differences in academic performance among groups of students which are identified by ethnicity and income level. The annual achievement gap report which is produced by the Education Oversight Committee, a legislative agency that evaluates our schools standards, studies the difference in achievement between groups. The groups they compare are the “target group” which is the historically lower-scoring disadvantaged students, and the “statewide comparison group” which is the historically higher-scoring less disadvantaged students. They compare them at various performance levels of advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic (Rex, 2010). Across the U.S., a gap in academic achievement persists between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts. This is one of the most urgent education policy challenges that states currently face. One common method in measuring the achievement gap is to compare academic performance among African-American, Hispanic, and white students on standardized assessments. But these tests have limitations. For example a school with a growing number of students identified as English language learners may have a growing gap in language arts but that does not necessarily reflect the ability of English language learners (Dietel, 2004). This means that just because a school has a large sub...
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