Michigan nonprofit succeeding in narrowing achievement gap

Educators in Ann Arbor, Michigan are striving to close the achievement gap between black and white students, and poor and middle class students. However, the school district needs some help — and Community Action Network has stepped up to the plate.

Community Action Network, or CAN, is a nonprofit organization that offers stable housing for adults and educational programs for children who live in low-income Ann Arbor neighborhoods. Its programs give students the support middle class families are able to provide their children. Families in poverty may lack Internet access or an adult to help them graduate, for example, and CAN steps in to bridge this gap.

Around one-quarter of Ann Arbor Public Schools students come from a home adversely affected by poverty.

For decades, Michigan’s standardized tests such as the MEAP and the ACT college entrance exam have shown an achievement gap between black and white students and those from low versus middle class homes. However, the gap is narrowing.

The Ann Arbor News reports that black students are achieving proficiency rates in MEAP math and reading exams that are 23 to 41 percentage points lower than their white peers. Five years ago, the gap was 33 to 44 percentage points lower. CAN is an example of an outside service organization stepping up to the plate to improve educational outcomes for K-12 students, and succeeding.

This gap is still too wide of course, but positive change does not come overnight. Gradually closing this achievement gap is a step in the right direction. We also need to see changes in parenting practices and better support for early intervention and education. It really does “take a village” and I hope the success in Ann Arbor can be duplicated in other school districts across the country.

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