Achievement Gaps: Everything You Need to Know

Refers to the stark margin noticed amongst different ethnic, race, gender, or language groups in terms of educational accomplishments. In other words, such gaps occur when a group of students (grouped by gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) performs better than another group, and the difference in average scores between these two groups is statistically significant (which means it’s larger than the margin of error).

Some educators believe achievement gaps are actually opportunity gaps because students from low-income families or specific racial/ethnic minorities don’t have opportunities to experience academic enrichments. They also lack enrichments in the arts and physical activities. As a result, they lag behind their counterparts from middle- and high-income homes. These students should be exposed to a wide range of activities that boost their self-confidence and also have small group tutoring that lets them meet their academic needs.

However, the problem isn’t just related to gender, race, or ethnicity. That’s why though all these factors may correlate with achievement gaps, it’s exceedingly simplistic and often offensive to consider them as the only reasons for such gaps. Thus, it’s wrong to believe that women are born to be less proficient in particular subjects or people of color are not equipped to become high achievers. Modern society has deeper structural issues that must be considered when tackling the problem of achievement gaps.

An example could be generational poverty, which is often worsened for people of color due to discrimination. As a result, it makes the road to achievement a lot more difficult for students of average intelligence. A simpler way to think about the situation is like this: Both the parents of student X are forced to work multiple jobs, and X isn’t sure where his next meal is coming from. Thus, X finds it extremely difficult to focus or get additional out-of-classroom learning than his peers who are in a more stable economic position.

Achievement gaps can’t be fixed overnight or quickly just through educational policy changes. Though systemic discrimination and generational poverty can be reduced with education, there’s no instant fix. Many educators believe closing the achievement gap is more about supporting and challenging students on a personal level than forcing a strict systemic approach. When provided with rich opportunities to learn, students thrive, and the achievement gaps close. However, when they are denied such opportunities, they fall behind, and devastating achievement gaps arise. This makes it important to ensure students get holistic opportunities to learn and thrive – both inside and outside their school environment, to close achievement gaps.

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