In an era where the quality of education is defined by the ways in which data is collected, parsed, and analyzed, it has become painfully clear that specific subsets of the student population are failing to achieve at levels that approach those found by others. The persistence of these differences – known as the “achievement gap” – has shined a light on the disparities in achievement between students of color and their white peers, who have achieved significantly higher success on standardized academic assessments in all areas for the better part of four decades (Hanoushek et al., 2019). While there have been successes in narrowing the gap since the 1990’s the reality continues to be that data demonstrates lower achievement for minority students in all segments of K-12 education and in all core subject matter areas (Stanford University, 2021).
The issue of a gap in educational success for minority students and the causal factor behind that gap is worthy of research because education has been shown to be pivotal in the ability of an individual to achieve economic and social success in life. When large percentages of the population are unable to achieve, they encounter obstacles such as underemployment or unemployment that can severely restrict the opportunities they find throughout their lives (Merolla & Jackson, 2019). When those who are unable to achieve represent entire minority groups, it speaks to an implicit bias and systemic discrimination that will continue to oppress specific segments of society, creating a wealthy upper class of white individuals and poorer minority groups overall. To ensure every student have an equitable chance at academic and economic success, the driving factors behind the achievement gap in educational success for minority students must be understood.
Practices, Policies, or Procedures That Led to the Problem
The practices, policies, and procedures that led to the achievement gap in academic success for minority students are not exactly understood; however, the advent of standardized testing in the late 20th century led to an understanding of the scope of the problem (Bowman et al., 2018). While each school district and state were allowed to establish their own standardized testing and data collecting practices, they were required to disaggregate the data to demonstrate performance by subgroup. This allowed researchers and educators to understand that, even in districts where children of multiple groups were educated alongside one another, children of color continued to demonstrate academic success at lower rates than their white peers (Stanford University, 2021). Understanding why this has been the case has led to more speculation as to the lack of culturally responsive teaching practices, socioeconomic situations that predispose certain students to arriving at school with less preparation for academic success than others, and a division in the quality of education provided at schools where higher numbers of minority students are in attendance. However, the exact cause has eluded clear understanding.
Importance of the Problem
The problem is significant to teaching and learning because all students are guaranteed by law access to a free and appropriate public education. This education must be provided in an equitable manner offering all students the ability to achieve to the greatest extent of their abilities. If there are practices in place that prevent certain students from achieving, or if there are circumstances that systematically discriminate against specific segments of society, there is not only an issue with breaking the law but a moral and ethical issue with providing less access to specific groups and understanding the lifelong impact that will have on the individuals and their
communities (Bowman et al., 2018). Understanding the root causes of achievement issues for minority populations is the only way to prevent intentional or unintentional systemic oppression.
Steps Taken to Address the Problem
Steps taken to address this problem have included multiple research studies to attempt to understand the issue, the implementation of culturally responsive teaching and learning practices, and an increased focus on data-driven instruction for areas where achievement gap issues continue to be resistant to change (Birnbaum et al., 2021). While these approaches are yielding small gains, every year that goes by produces yet another group of young people denied the opportunity to achieve to the fullest of their potential. The public education system must focus more resources on recruiting quality teachers who can provide high-quality, rigorous instruction with culturally responsive practices and an understanding of the needs of minority populations.
Higher funding for language learner programs, teacher education, and investment in materials produced by minority authors and scholars can provide students of color the opportunity to achieve and realize their potential in a more expedient manner.
Biblical World View
The Bible calls Christians to understand the need to provide equity to all and to create a world in which humanity strives to be like God, treating all people in the same ways. “The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob” (English Standard Version, 2021, Psalm 99:4). Therefore, understanding why there is inequity in education for minority students that leads to lower success for those groups is essential from a Biblical world view. Individuals who consider themselves Christian must fight against any situation in which there is the potential for systemic inequity and constantly attempt to right wrongs perpetrated against any group. When students of color are
able to achieve at levels on par of those seen by their white peers, it can be said that one is working in the image of God and the true meaning of Scripture.
Birnbaum, H. J., Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. S., & Hamedani, M. G. (2021). A diversity ideology intervention: Multiculturalism reduces the racial achievement gap. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 12(5), 751-759.
Bowman, B. T., Comer, J. P., & Johns, D. J. (2018). Addressing the African American achievement gap: Three leading educators issue a call to action. YC Young Children, 73(2), 14-23.
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. https://esv.literalword.com/
Hanushek, E. A., Peterson, P. E., Talpey, L. M., & Woessmann, L. (2019). The achievement gap fails to close. Education Next, 19(3), 8-17.
Merolla, D. M., & Jackson, O. (2019). Structural racism as the fundamental cause of the academic achievement gap. Sociology Compass, 13(6), e12696.
Stanford University. (2021). The Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project: Racial and Ethnic Achievement Gaps. Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://cepa.stanford.edu/educational-opportunity-monitoring- project/achievement-gaps/race/
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