The achievement gap
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an organization that evaluates academic tests, recently reported that white and Asian/Pacific-Islander students outperformed their Black and Hispanic peers in 4th and 8th grade reading and math exams.
A 2001 study by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators concluded that while 30 out of every 100 White kindergartners in the U.S. went on to college, only 16 out of every 100 Black kindergartners did so.
These statistics are not surprising - the U.S. Census Bureau states that for
children under 18 in broken families, 27% are Hispanic and 30% are Black, compared to only
13% White. Minority students are often raised in low-income, single-parent families that
cannot afford to invest much time or money in their childrens education. The
sub-standard schools that they attend have little access to updated textbooks, libraries,
and computers, or educational materials like microscopes, calculators and art supplies.
Working in sub-standards schools often leaves teachers frustrated and discouraged. They expect little from their students. The students also expect little from themselves. Instead of encouraging a love of learning, creativity, cultural awareness and social activism, failing schools leave students apathetic about their crime-infested, impoverished environments.
As a result,
student discipline problems, drop-out rates, and teenage pregnancies increase. This leads
to more single-parent families living in poverty and a higher crime rate, continuing the
cycle. Many discouraged teachers quit their profession or move to schools with better
security, more resources and higher salaries. These schools, usually located in suburbs with less
crime and few minorities, receive sufficient government funding and invest the money in
more effective programs.
Under this policy, schools that do progress toward meeting academic standards receive additional assistance. Continued failure brings sanctions - schools may be forced to restructure, for instance. In addition, children in public schools that have not made enough progress in two years could transfer to a better-performing school of their choice.
Supporters claim that one the best things to come out of the policy is money invested in math and reading. "[The students] are actually getting more money for what they should already be doing," said Krista Kafer, an education expert in the Heritage Foundation.
Critics argue that some schools have lowered their academic standards by providing students only with what they need to pass standardized tests, allowing the school to meet the state's academic standards and escape sanctions without providing a full range of quality education.
Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, adds that sanctions are too tough for schools that do not meet the academic standards. Also, many rural schools have a hard time meeting teacher requirements. A big argument is whether the federal government provides enough funds. "Most of the schools I talk to say they havent," Houston said.
Increasing government funding can help provide children with the materials, programs, and faculty they need to become informed and productive members of their communities. Increased involvement by parents in their children's education can also help.
You can help by supporting improved policies. Here's a letter you can send.
This web page and entire website © Copyright: 1997 - 2015 by Hearts and Minds Network, Inc. http://www.heartsandminds.org/education/letter.htm - online August 25, 2004, latest text changes April 11, 2006.