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The Achievement Gap in Education

Posted by on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 in Features, Summer 2010.

Pre-K students at Ross Elementary School in Nashville work with colors and shapes prior to leaving school for the summer break. Research suggests that students from disadvantaged schools are more likely to experience a “summer dip” in achievement that can aggregate so that children can become at least two years behind by the time they reach high school.

A World of Hurt

It’s a gray winter day at Ross Elementary, an inner-city school in East Nashville that serves a high percentage of children who qualify for the free and reduced-priced lunch program, and pre-K teacher Tish Smedley is overseeing the controlled chaos of her 4-year-old students as they prepare for rest period. A slender little boy dressed […]

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An AVID classroom at Runge Independent School in rural south Texas prepares eighth- and ninth-grade students for college.

Far Away, Distant Learning: The Rural Achievement Gap

Amid all the recent scrutiny of the achievement gap and its effect on urban minority and low-income students, another large subset of disadvantaged American students—those attending poor rural schools—have been largely overlooked and underexamined. More than one in five children in the U.S. live in rural areas, and of these, 20 percent are black or Hispanic.

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Chris Barbic, BS ’92, with students from YES Prep, a charter school system he founded in Houston, Texas.

Is the Answer YES?

Teacher Laureen Wimbley is walking around her classroom at YES Prep Southwest, giving her sixth-grade students instructions on how to complete their science lessons.On paper, this is a classroom that should be a recipe for disaster. Thirty-four Hispanic and black preteens are crammed together, seated shoulder-to-shoulder in a cramped modular building located in a low-income neighborhood in southwest Houston. As Wimbley energetically describes the assignment, the students bend forward intent on their work. There are no disruptions. No shouts or extraneous conversations. Only learning.

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Jamie Graham leading a class at Pearl-Cohn High School in Nashville. Graham is a special education major at Peabody.

Jumping the Gap: Two Success Stories

The achievement gap in education is based on averages—average test scores, average family incomes, average performance based on race and ethnicity. On average, for example, black and Latino men are the lowest performing group on the down side of the achievement gap. Yet not all black and Latino males fall into that category. Some have defied the averages and risen above their circumstances to become successful. Jamie Graham and David Pérez are two such men.

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