Sunday, July 24, 2016
The Academic Achievement Gap Is Caused By Family And Community, Not The Schools.
Approximately 50 years ago, the Coleman Report was published and it showed that the primary factor in a student's academic achievement was the family environment, the community the child lived in, and peer interaction. On the other hand, the quality of the schools and teachers had minimal effects on the student's academic achievement gap. While many education scholars have tried to debunk the Coleman Report but the study has stood the test of time. Even the esteemed Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan realized that the family unit was the primary factor in the success or failure of a child. He even wrote his own report that showed racial inequality was due to the family structure. The Senator started citing the Coleman Report as well as his own study in speeches around the nation and received blowback from Liberals and Progressives for laying the blame on the crumbling family unit (lack of fathers and lack of income) in high poverty Black communities and not on the inequality and segregation of schools.
Now 50 years later both the Coleman Report and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's study has withstood the test of time and while education scholars have used more sophisticated methods in determining the factors that cause the student achievement gap, the bottom line is it all starts with the family and community environment that the child is exposed to before they even start school. Chalkbeat has an excellent analysis of this and can be found Here.
While schools matter, the most important factor is the family unit and the income that unit generates and when children grow up with limited childcare, lack of fathers (role models, and financial stability) and is surrounded by similar family units in low income communities, these students are starting off educationally behind when they enter school and will increase the academic achievement gap going forward unless drastic action is taken to improve the family environment. Blaming the schools and their teachers for the academic achievement gap is simply ignoring the real truth. Its the family unit and the community the child lives in that are the primary factors that determine a child's academic success or failure not the quality of their teachers.
Is student diversity of the schools a worthy goal? Absolutely. However, will it really help narrow the student academic achievement? Not likely, since the students will still be leaving school back to a low-income community (especially the public housing complexes) that feels unsafe, and insecure where deep poverty and lack of fathers are common, and their role models are the community's adults who hang out on the corner rather than their teacher. Not a hopeful outcome for educational success.