Friday, March 04, 2016
Poverty Is The Reason We Can't Narrow The Academic Achievement Gap.
The education reformer holy grail is to reduce the income/racial academic achievement gap and to attempt to achieve this goal they have tried different strategies to try to make it happen with little success. Bill Gates is the poster child of the education reformer organizations and he has tried various strategies, none of them have worked. First, it was the small school movement which he admitted failure. Then it was cameras in the classroom that was to be used to identify good teaching that was shot down like a lead balloon. Next, was advocating charter schools and blended learning which has been a disaster where it has been tried, including New York City. Finally, his new emphasis is on "teacher quality" which is a major part of the program of high-stakes testing to evaluate teachers. However, many states have retreated from using test scores to evaluate teachers (New York State) or are eliminating it all together like Seattle Washington.
The primary reason that the education reformer organizations can't seem to significantly narrow the income/racial achievement gap is their failure to address the poverty issue. Nationwide 42% of children who live only with their mother are living in poverty and instead of trying to eliminate poverty by keeping families together, promote safer communities, and have financial and food security. Its easier to lay the blame on the lack of "quality teachers" for poor student academic achievement.
Now we have a 10 year study done in San Diego California that tried mightily to narrow the income/racial achievement gap by hiring more teachers of color, increased teaching professional development, and better teacher certification practices. The blueprint can be found here. The result has been disappointing, the ten year study showed only marginal progress and in some cases no progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap. .
The reason that none of these programs have worked is the failure to address the poverty issue and as long as the education reformer organizations ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room and that is poverty, blaming teachers or the schools will not result in any significant improvements in narrowing the income/racial achievement gap.