The Achievement Gap: Causes and Possible Solutions

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This research paper will take a look at the achievement gap that exists in education. The achievement gap is best described as the difference in educational proficiency between students who come from a high or middle class white family, and students who come from a low class or minority family. One of the main determinants of the achievement gap is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These tests are given every few years to make available reliable information about the academic performance of American students in various learning areas. The other main determinant of the achievement gap that is commonly used are studies that show the highest level of educational attainment for different groups. The different causes for the gap, different ways to reduce the gap, as well as examples of schools that have successfully done so will also be discussed.

The Achievement Gap:
Causes and Possible Solutions
What causes the gap?
Many educational researchers have studied the causes of the significant achievement gap between Caucasian middle or upper class students and African-American or Hispanic underprivileged students, and have demonstrated that there is not one cause, but many. Paul E. Barton, a Senior Associate in the Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center, wrote an article about the achievement gap. Barton states that the causes can be divided into two categories, the “In School” category, and the “Before and Beyond School” category (Barton, 2004). These studies show that the responsibility for the gap rests unilaterally on the parents of the child, the teachers, as well as society. According to Barton (9-11) some of the before and beyond school causes are health issues such as low birth weight, Lead poisoning (Living in homes with lead-based paint used prior to 1946), and hunger and nutrition. Other issues are more aimed at family involvement such as reading to young children, television watching, parent availability, student mobility, and parent participation in their child’s life. Educators also have a role to play in bridging this educational gap. Some of the causes in schools are lack of curriculum rigor, inexperienced teachers, unqualified teachers, exceedingly large classes, lack of technology, and unsafe schools. All of these causes have a very large effect on a student’s education. For example, most schools that have a majority of low-income, or African-American and Hispanic students, have a hard time keeping teachers. It is common sense that to be good at anything, you need to be experienced at it. This is true about teaching as well, and when teachers move on to ‘better’ jobs after experiencing the difficulties present in these types of schools, the teachers that are brought in are mostly young and inexperienced. It is very difficult to bring quality to your job as a young teacher, because the learning curve is so sharp. According to Wenglinsky (2000), “Quality teaching was identified in a recent analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress as the most powerful influence on academic achievement.” How fair is it to the student, to throw a new teacher into that type of situation and expect them to have any success at all, not to mention bringing quality to their job. Society has allowed these difficult school settings to develop. When single parents have to work two or three different jobs just to make ends meet, how much time will they have to nurture their child? When students bring knives or guns into the school to intimidate or threaten another student, or even a teacher, how can the school possibly keep money coming in from wealthy parents? These questions are just a few that could be posed to show how society has let down many individuals involved with these institutions.

Ways to reduce the gap
The achievement gap is so complex, that there is no one way to reduce it. As the causes for the gap can be separated into three areas (home,...
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