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Achievement Gap Laguines 1

Understanding Achievement Gap within Multicultural Education

Kimberly Laguines

Keiser University

Abstract

Why is the “achievement gap” important to understand within a multicultural framework? What are some of the problems with the term “achievement gap?” These questions will be answer in this essay describing multicultural education and how defining the term “achievement gap” and understanding it aids in narrowing the gap. In the multicultural framework of education, “achievement gaps” have been focused on the gap between black and white students. But as the U.S. became a “melting pot” for so many other ethnic populations, “achievement gaps” was seen between whites and other ethnic groups such as Hispanics. The measurement of the achievement gap will also be reviewed. There is no denying that “achievement gap” exists but to what capacity is what this essay hopes to explore.

Introduction In the U.S. education system today, we have experience an influx of different ethnic groups within the schools; therefore a multicultural framework of our education system was necessary. A multicultural framework means that we structure the school in a way that is promoting the cultural of all students that attend. This however is not true of all school systems and is indicative to why the term “achievement gap” still exists. Achievement gap is a term that has been used in education for several decades; however it has evolved in its usage. An achievement gap refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race, ability, and socioeconomic status (Scholarpedia.com). Across the U.S, a gap in academic success continues to be evident between minority and underprivileged students and their white peers. This evidence is seen in an array of means, such as tests, dropout rate in high school, and reading and math tests. The “achievement gap” is real not some made up term used to justify our lack of equality in education for all students. This essay will describe the problems with the “achievement gap” in that it is not a student problem but societal and school problem as well, its effect on a multicultural education system, and narrowing the gap in order for the goal of education to be realized.

It is a reality that the U.S. school systems are filled with many different cultures. But a quick history lesson about the road that we traveled to get here is necessary in order to fully understand how the term “achievement gap came about. During slavery times and before, only white men were allowed an education, therefore the “achievement gap” was between genders. Women were homemakers and had little or no education. Next, Africans were brought over from Africa for slavery, and ultimately had to fight for their right to get an education (civil rights). So from the very beginning there has always been this “achievement gap” between whites and blacks. This gap still exists today because we have failed to acknowledge the past therefore we cannot move forward. In today’s classroom, students come from many different backgrounds and the “achievement gap” is seen not only between whites and blacks but whites and Hispanics. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 1992 to 2005, the gap between African Americans and Hispanic students compared to white students remains very large. For example, according to NAEP, black students are reading two levels below their white peers. This gap gets wider as students progress through higher grade levels. The problem with “achievement gap” is that it assumes that students themselves are responsible for their learning (Bode and Nieto p.13). Even though the “achievement gap exists, it unfairly puts a lot of the responsibility on the student. Many school administrations believe that the gap between most ethnics groups and their white peers is a minority problem. Nieto and Bode describes gap in two additional terms: 1. Expectation gap and 2. Resource gap. Since majority of the students that are affected by this “achievement gap” are from poor homes, have little parental involvement, and have shabby resources; the two co-terms are inclusive. Nieto and Bode suggest that “expectation gap” is a lower level of expectation from teachers and/ or administrators when teaching some ethnic groups. For example, a teacher suggesting that black kids read slower and that her expectation for black kids is lowered because of this. The “resource gap” suggests that students who live in poverty and go to their neighborhood schools are not given the same resources as their peers that are from middle class families. For example, students who live in poverty and go to a poor school have books that are broken and torn. We spend more money on the rich and less on the poor; something is indeed wrong with this picture. The “achievement gap” must be viewed as a community problem not a minority one and in doing so the gap will get closer to being closed.
Narrowing the “achievement gap” should be a high priority of a multicultural education system. In order for an education system to work for all students no matter their background, this gap must be close. In order for the gap to get shorter and shorter, we must first define what we want multicultural education to be. We pride ourselves on being a country of immigrants and must take this pride and teach history about all the immigrants who have impacted the U.S. For example, if a student knows that we value their heritage and allow them to speak freely in their native tongue, then they will feel as though they belong to this country instead of feeling abandoned when they can’t speak their language. The problems with “achievement gap” is that it puts a lot of pressure on the student, keeps us from moving forward to a productive multicultural education system, and its connotation that ethnics groups such as blacks and Hispanics will always be lagging behind their white peers. We have made improvements in shortening this gap. I.e. No child left behind act, but still have strives to go. A multicultural educational system that gives all students an equal opportunity to learn and develop into a productive citizen of society is the ultimate goal of our education system.

References

Nieto, Sonia and Patty Bode. Affirming diversity: the sociopolitical context of multicultural education. 5th Ed. Pearson Education. 2008. Scholarpedia.com/ closing the achievement gap.

References: Nieto, Sonia and Patty Bode. Affirming diversity: the sociopolitical context of multicultural education. 5th Ed. Pearson Education. 2008. Scholarpedia.com/ closing the achievement gap.

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