Skip to content

Achievement Gap In Education Essay Title

The achievement gap is defined as the disparity that exists between the test scores of White American students and African American and Hispanic or minority students. Test results indicate that White students score higher than minority students (except Asians) on measures of achievement. This gap is measured by test scores on a variety of instruments measuring intelligence, achievement, and aptitude. These include the National Assessment of Educational Progress, SAT, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and other instruments administered in the public schools of the United States.

The achievement gap is a major concern to policy makers and educators alike, and much research has been done to discover the cause of this test score difference. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the achievement gap between Whites and African Americans is between 0.80 and 1.14 standard deviations. Between Whites and Hispanics, it is between 0.40 and 1.00. According to NAEP data, this gap exists both in reading and in math. The educational, social, and economic implications for minority students are huge. The dropout rate for minority teens is higher than for White teens, the high school graduation rate lower, and as a result, opportunities in the job market are substantially limited. Education is purported to be the great equalizer, but this gap persists and points to a significant problem in the educational system in the United States. This entry looks at the question: What is the cause of this achievement gap, and can the gap be closed?

Possible Causes

In 1954, the Supreme Court decision reached in Brown v. Board of Education stated that the educational system in the United States was “separate and unequal.” African American and other minority children attended class in dilapidated buildings, with limited funding and resources. These conditions and their inherent discriminatory practices contributed to the early gaps in test scores between White and minority students.

In more recent times, test bias has been alleged by theorists who claim that the contents of achievement tests are biased in favor of White students, and thus the tests discriminate against minorities. Others have said minority students are inherently inferior intellectually and the achievement gap is proof. There has been no clear-cut evidence to support this claim, however, though it has been made throughout the last few centuries by various pundits.

In addition to these assertions, the research has investigated many other factors that may contribute to this gap. These include race, socioeconomic status, culture, teacher expectations, instructional practices, parent level of education, parent involvement, cultural capital, and various societal elements, even rap music. Basically, there is no evidence suggesting a cause of the achievement gap in education.

While definitive causes may not be available, landmark research conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley offers insight into what may be the origins of the problem and as a result, likely solutions. These researchers studied children from ten months to three years old in families from three socioeconomic backgrounds: welfare, middle class, and professional (specifically college professors’ families). Their study, which looked at the quantity of conversation in families as counted in words, suggests that for some children, the achievement gap begins before they enter the educational system.

They found that the average welfare child heard about 616 words per hour, compared to 1,251 words per hour for the average working-class child, and 2,153 words per hour for children in professional families. In four years of such experience, an average child in a professional family would have heard almost 45 million words, an average child in a working class family 26 million words, and an average child in a welfare family 13 million words. Thus, by the time the children enter school, their experiences are vastly different, with potential consequences. For example, a student who arrives at school having heard, let’s say, the word marvelous 1,000 times will most likely know that word and its usage, as compared to a child who had only heard it ten times or not at all. Experience with language offers a decided advantage. These findings moved the government to fund and implement a comprehensive preschool system, Head Start, aimed at closing the gap for children born into poverty.

Possible Solutions

Since researchers can’t come to a conclusion about why the achievement gap exists, they have sought solutions to decrease it. According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), this goal was achieved for a period of thirteen years as indicated by data showing that the gap narrowed between 1975 and 1988. From 1990 to 1999, however, the gap remained the same or grew. In fact, according to the Education Trust, by the time African American and Hispanic students reach twelfth grade, their English, math, and science skills are similar to the skills of thirteen-year-old White students.

A Nation At Risk

What factors contributed to the narrowing of the achievement gap in the 1980s? Again there are many explanations espoused by the researchers. Title I supplied much needed government funding to economically depressed schools. Also, in 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education’s report A Nation at Risk served notice on the entire educational system that the Unites States was lagging behind the nations of the world. The commission set forth the following recommendations:

  • Graduation requirements should be strengthened in five new basics: English, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer science.
  • Schools and colleges should adopt higher and measurable standards for academic performance.
  • The amount of time students spend engaged in learning should be significantly increased.
  • The teaching profession should be strengthened through higher standards for preparation and professional growth.

This prompted swift action as professional educational entities such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of English, National Science Teachers Association, and the International Reading Association scrambled to raise the standards of academic achievement in our nation’s schools through the establishment of national standards. These standards were meant to offer strong content-based curriculum practices intended to increase student achievement through content.

The report, which focused on the test scores of the general student population, and its subsequent reaction by the educational community, seems to have had the positive effect of narrowing the achievement gap, according to a 2006 article in the American Journal of Education by Douglas Harris and Carolyn Herrington. The authors also stated that during the 1980s, when content and time standards (what is taught, and the amount of time spent teaching and learning) were improved, the achievement gap narrowed. They added, however, that during the 1990s, the gap remained the same or grew at the onset of the accountability focus in the form of high-stakes tests, school takeovers, vouchers, charter schools, and other government and market based accountability programs.

Teacher Quality

Another factor said to narrow the achievement gap is teacher quality. Highly qualified teachers can narrow the achievement gap just as incompetent teachers can widen it. Research indicates that high quality teaching can have lasting effects on student achievement. Unfortunately, poor quality teachers are concentrated in low performing schools. According to research, this is no coincidence. Being taught by a poor quality teacher can seriously affect student achievement. Among other findings, Steven Rivkin, Eric Hanushek, and John Kain found that high quality instruction in primary school may offset disadvantages associated with low socioeconomic background.

Quality Reading Instruction

Additional measures have been employed to improve overall student performance and combat the widening achievement gap. In 2000, the National Reading Panel issued a meta-analysis detailing the “big five” of the instructional reading process: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The panel determined that systematic phonics instruction leads to significant positive benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and for children with difficulty learning to read. They also found that professional development for teachers is necessary to improve the quality of reading instruction.

No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act, was signed into law on January 8, 2002. The U.S. Department of Education stated that the law helps schools improve by focusing on accountability for results, freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and choices for parents. One of the primary objectives of the legislation is to close the achievement gap, as stated in Title I, Section 100-Statement of Purpose,

The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. This purpose can be accomplished by … closing the achievement gap between highand lowperforming children, especially the achievement gaps between minority and nonminority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers. . .

Various programs and projects, such as Reading First; Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or at Risk; Family Literacy; Drop-Out Prevention; Advanced Placement Programs; and Comprehensive School Reform are funded through NCLB.

With any new government initiative, however, comes debate. NCLB is no exception. Many believe the program has inordinately increased stress on teachers and students through the use of high stakes testing to measure goal compliance. In general, a great deal of spirited conversation surrounds the effectiveness of some of the NCLB’s stipulations. Are the accountability measures improving teacher quality and academic achievement among all student groups? Is the achievement gap narrowing? Only time and data will be the judge.

Bibliography:

  1. Baard, M. (2006). Scholars cite history’s legacy, rap music for achievement gap. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 23, 20.
  2. Borman, G. D., & Kimball, S. M. (2005). Teacher quality and educational equality: Do teachers with higher standards-based evaluation ratings close student achievement gaps? Elementary School Journal, 106, 3–20.
  3. Harris, D. N., & Herrington, C. D. (2006). Accountability, standards, and the growing achievement gap: Lessons from the past half-century. American Journal of Education, 112, 209–237.
  4. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful difference in the everyday experiences of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
  5. Jencks, C., & Phillips, M. (Eds.). (1998). The Black-White test score gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
  6. A nation at risk. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/index.html
  7. Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73, 417–458.
  8. Stiefwl, L., Schwartz, A. E., & Ellen, I. G. (2006). Disentangling the racial test score gap: Probing the evidence in a large urban school district. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 26, 7–30.
  9. National Reading Panel: http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org
  10. No Child Left Behind, U.S. Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

This example Achievement Gap Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

See also:

Achievement Gap Essay

The achievement gap is defined as the disparity between the performance groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability and socio-economic status. The achievement gap can be observed through a variety of measures including standardized test scores, grade point averages, drop out rates, college enrollment and completion rates. The Black-White achievement gap is a critical issue in modern society’s education system. Although data surrounding the issue clearly indicates that the racial performance gap exists in areas of standardized tests, graduation rates, dropout rates, and enrollment in continuing education, the causative reasons for the gap are ambiguous—therefore presenting a significant challenge in regard to the most effective way to close the gap. The gap appears before children enter kindergarten and it persists into adulthood (Jencks 1998). Since 1970, the gap has decreased about 40 percent, but has steadily grown since. Theories suggest the Black-White achievement gap is created by a multitude of social, cultural, and economic factors as well as educational opportunities and/or learning experiences. Factors such as biased testing, discrimination by teachers, test anxiety among black students, disparities between blacks and whites in income or family structure, and genetic and cultural differences between blacks and whites have all been evaluated as explanations for the Black-White achievement gap (Farkas 2004). The research that follows will elaborate on these factors as they affect the decline in academic performance of black males—particularly the literacy achievement of black males.

Within the Black-White achievement gap resides a subgroup whose academic performance is distressingly lower than all other subgroups—black males. Black males score significantly lower on standardized tests, have lower grades and greater dropout rates, are suspended and expelled more, are assigned to lower academic tracks, are overrepresented in special education and represent the majority of struggling readers in schools. Less than 4% of the total student population enrolled in America’s colleges and universities (one of the smallest subgroups based on race/ethnicity and gender.) According to the Schott Foundation, the graduation rate of Black males in CT is between 51%, whereas White males in CT have an 83% graduation rate—a 32% gap. Moreover, the achievement gap between Black women and Black men is the lowest male-to female ratio among all racial/ethnic subgroups. (Strayhorn 1). The disproportionate and devastating failure of Black males in the educational system has further ramifications in our social system as black males are over-represented in the criminal justice system: “African-American males represent approximately 8.6 percent of the nation’s K-12 public school enrollment but make up about 60 percent of all incarcerated youth” (Smith 2005). In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the academic crisis...

Loading: Checking Spelling

0%

Read more

The Educational Researcher: Review and Response

1959 words - 8 pages 2.1 Forum Analysis A. Research and Identify: Background / History of Forum Although the Educational Researcher does not have a stated political position and is not interested in politics on the surface, some political ideas and opinions are very evident within its pages. In my opinion, the Educational Researcher tends to lean more towards the liberal/progressive side, because the articles they publish tend to have some very progressive ideas,...

The Construction and Repletion of Gap in "The Ultimate Safari"

2678 words - 11 pages Parveen 8The Multidimensional Construction and Repletion of Gap in Nadine Gordimer's "The Ultimate Safari."Critics have the tendency to explore gaps established between thoughts and expression and try to fill up those gaps. They intend to illustrate intersection between words and concepts by umpteen means. Poetry and experience are...

Essay II: McKinsey Casual Essay

1623 words - 6 pages

The Shame of The Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol

2722 words - 11 pages The Shame of the Nation: Overview “The Shame of The Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America,” is a book that tells the story of author, Jonathan Kozol’s, journey through the public school system. He looks deeper into inner-city, low-income schools and the re-segregation that has taken place. Kozol focuses on the struggles those children of poor and minorities face while trying to achieve equal education as those of the middle...

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: An essay explaining the program, the benifits, and how the program works.

565 words - 2 pages No Child Left BehindBy, Jin ChangNo Child Left Behind is designed to help children, teachers, and schools improve to a higher standard. The law was designed to close the achievement gap between students. The law gives more flexibility in what the schools can do, gives parents more options in how to help their child, and teaching students effectively in a proven way.More AccountabilityClosing

Gender Roles

876 words - 4 pages Nguyen PAGE 1 Joseph NguyenPeriod 1March 10, 2009English Language & Composition APMr. TurnerGender Bias in EducationGender gaps in school admissions exams take a huge role in educational equity. For example, in the case, Sharif versus New York State Education...

Impoverished Schools Create Impoverished Adults

1166 words - 5 pages One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to a student’s academic success in poverty stricken schools is that they are unwilling and unable to learn. This is not the case. Yes a child can determine their own education by choosing to do their work and be willing to learn, but you must take into consideration their circumstances. Most of these schools are very diverse, which leads them to be exposed to gangs, drugs, and violence. The...

Standardized Testing

576 words - 2 pages I. Standardized tests can not accurately measure intellectual merit because racial and gender stereotypes interfere with the intellectual functioning of those taking the tests, according to Stanford Psychology Professor Claude Steele. The educational system in United States has been using standardized tests to evaluate the performance of students. The first documented achievement test took place in the period of 1840-1875. The earliest tests...

Formative Assessment and Conceptual Change

1129 words - 5 pages The usage of formative assessment is not widely used in schools or employed by most teachers. In On the Impact of Formative Assessment on Student Motivation, Achievement, and Conceptual Change, this study connects two previously isolated but theoretically linked educational frameworks: conceptual change and formative assessment. The group of authors explored whether formative assessment would improve students’ motivation and achievement, and lead...

Why do the Poor Perform Poorly?

786 words - 3 pages Why do the poor perform poorly? iHow does a household income affect education in Pre-K through sixth grade?January 8, 2002 then President Bush signed into law the No child Left Behind Act. A series of policies and laws put into place in a effort to hold schools accountable for the success of the children they teach. It was clear that there was a socioeconomic divide among poor children and privileged children, rapidly on its way...

Previous Page

1354 words - 5 pages Previous Page There is a great divide between rich school districts and poor school districts in respect to students’ achievements. Many of the poor school districts’ student population consists of minorities, which adds to the stereotypes of minorities not being intelligent. “These students, for whom a strong education is especially essential, are being left behind - and being left behind in greater and greater numbers over the past decade”...