Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mind the Gap (s)

Philip Kovacs at the Educational Policy Blog has this important post which all readers of Social Issues could keep in mind. Philip has added links to data sources for each of the gaps on the original post.

Reducing the “achievement gap” to what goes on inside of schools has proven to be an effective way for policy makers to ignore all of the other “gaps” outside of America’s classrooms.

While researcher after researcher has shown that outside influences contribute to student performance and achievement, proponents of high-stakes, standardized reforms continue to press for more “rigor,” as if harder work alone will mitigate every outside factor influencing children’s lives.

Rather than focusing exclusively on the “achievement gap,” policy makers and educational reformers might consider policies that help reduce other “gaps” that exist within our country. Gaps that could be narrowed in order to improve the lives and schooling of all students include but are not limited to:

The incarceration gap, where six times as many African Americans are behind bars compared to their white counterparts;

The homeowner gap, where 72.7% of white Americans own their homes compared to 48.2% of African Americans;

The healthcare gap, where 71.4% of white Americans are insured compared to 53.9% of African Americans;

The earnings gap, where white Americans average over $20,000 more a year than African Americans;

The poverty rate gap, where 8.7% of white Americans live at or below the poverty line while 24.7% of African Americans do so;

The unemployment gap, where 5.7% of white Americans are unemployed while 13.2% of African Americans are without work;

The happiness gap, where 72% of white youths say they are happy with life in general compared to 56% of their African American counterparts;

The murder gap, where 49% of murder victims in the United States are African Americans, who make up 13% of the population.

Close one of these and I warrant the "achievement gap" shrinks.


philip said...


leonard waks said...

This post points to the crucial importance of the "social context of education."

Schools are mainly throughput devices to preserve social stratification.

They are easy scapegoats for the deplorable situations of less advantaged groups.

Leaders of these groups fall into the very trap set by elite leaders, of believing tha myth of schooling as the great panacea.

When these leaders cry out for control of their own schools they merely shoulder the inevitabe blame for poor school achievement that rightly lies in the contextual variables the elites can affect but successfully obscure.

The healthcare institution is in the hands of insurance, medical and big pharma elites. A revised institution, with safe, effective, low cost care for everyone, would not be difficult to 'design' but impossible to legislate because of the money poer of these elites.

Such a redesigned institution could have a dramatic impact on school achievement.

Instead we get teacher bashing and teaching to the test.

Let's work to improve schools, to make them wonderful places for kids to learn and grow, without allowing the wool to be pulled over our eyes by this trick.

That is, let's keep focused on the Social Issues.