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  • 1.  Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-27-2017 05:22 PM
    Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent? We've been trying to examine our role as teachers of 3's and 4's to see if and how we might be contributing to the ongoing gap. Right now we are asking ourselves what the pieces of this situation we have control over. We welcome your ideas to stimulate our thinking.
    Jerlean Daniel
    Facilitator, Black Caucus Interest Forum
    Curtis Bay, MD

  • 2.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-28-2017 07:58 AM
    There seem to be 2 opinions on this. I wouldn't say they are completely separate. The first opinion is that they aren't getting what they need at home in any of the domains. (Which is not true of all children of color!) Some believe SEL has an impact as well, since children are born with less economic advantages and many mothers are doing what they need to in order to make ends meet, causing children to miss out on quality time.
    The second opinon is that adults who work with children of color can be racist and start out with less tolerance for them as they know they are taught lessons of survival outside of school and can't be worked with in school.
    In my personal opinion, these are the ones who need us the most!

    Robin Howell
    Edinboro PA

  • 3.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-28-2017 08:08 AM
    Great question, Jerlean!  It's one I also think a lot about. Right now, the Diversity & Equity Interest Forum is reading the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.  It's all about implicit or unconscious racial bias.  If you're interested in reading along, just complete this registration form.  And here are some other resources related to the role of implicit racial bias in early childhood education:

    Megan Pamela Ruth Madison, M.S.Ed
    Student Board Member | NAEYC

  • 4.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-28-2017 09:02 AM
    I want to second Megan's recommendation for "Blindspot," which is a compelling book for everyone who works in education but especially for those of us in early childhood. The achievement gap for children of color can't merely be about "them," about what Lisa Delpit refers to in her (excellent) work as "other people's children." Rather, as "Blindspot" makes clear, it always has to include ourselves, our identities and views, no matter who we think we are.

    Of course, massive structural issues are foundational components of the achievement gap. But the daily lives of most early childhood educators involve hundreds of immediate, vital opportunities to address these issues at a similarly fundamental level: in the context of our professional relationships. Given the importance of interactions in our work -- with children, of course, but also with other educators and with families -- I feel that we can't make progress on this issue in our classrooms and schools without true introspection about the perspectives, cultures, and resulting behaviors that we bring to our work. Sadly, even when the facts are clear, some educators will keep this issue at arm's length, particularly (in my experience) white, Anglo, middle class educators, because it is inevitably uncomfortable and difficult for many.

    So we have a lot of work to do. And I'm very glad for colleagues like Jerlean and Megan who bring us together to support one another to do this work.

    Chris Amirault
    Mérida, Yucatán, México

  • 5.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-28-2017 11:18 AM

    I am so glad I finally stopped ignoring my emails from the Discussion Board. Little did I know that I would see a question I have been working on all my career pop up.

    I want to respond with my own findings in my community. I also wanted to let this group of individuals concerned with the issue know that I am bringing this work to a new fellowship I was just awarded. It is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement Beloved Community Fellowship. YOu can see more on their website at this link.Home | Campaign for Black Male Achievement

    Campaign for Black Male Achievement remove preview
    Home | Campaign for Black Male Achievement
    Rumble Young Man, Rumble Since 2010, "Rumble Young Man Rumble" has convened leaders nationwide in Louisville to share promising practices and lessons learned, and to create collaborations with young Black men in communities across
    View this on Campaign for Black Male Achievement >

    Michele Pullen
    Ivy Tech Sellerburg
    Sellerburg IN

  • 6.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-28-2017 12:26 PM
    This April 2017 Atlantic article, "How Does Race Affect a Student's Math Education", digs into institutional and systemic lenses which perpetuate bias which affects opportunity, etc.

    Though it is directed at K-12, the concepts apply to early childhood education as well. Questions raised for me included:

    How/where am I using and perpetuating a deficit lens when I make the case for addressing gaps? How is the system (training, curriculums, standards, etc) perpetuating a deficit lens?
    How am I using whiteness as the standard? How does the system build on whiteness as the standard? How else is a "whiteness" lens perpetuated by the system and by myself?
    How am I perpetuating racial bias? How does the system perpetuate racial bias?
    What can I do in design and delivery of professional development (most of my daily work) to address biases in my own content and approach, and also to promote thinking and action to counteract systemic bias?

    How Does Race Affect a Student's Math Education?

    The Atlantic remove preview
    How Does Race Affect a Student's Math Education?
    A new paper examines the ways "whiteness" reproduces racial advantages and disadvantages. But she's also constrained by the institutional aspects of whiteness in her classroom that exist outside her teaching methods-not simply the how of teaching, but what the state standards value.
    View this on The Atlantic >

    Beth Menninga
    St. Paul, MN

  • 7.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 04-29-2017 10:45 PM

    This is a powerful discussion. With respect to the literacy gap, the Hart and Risley (2003) research study is important in terms of understanding how children's literacy is often connected to their parents' education level and socioeconomic status. The benefits for eliminating the literacy gaps for children of color are to guide them successfully to attain academic achievement and increase their chances for life-long outcomes.

    Reducing literacy gaps is a multifaceted issue that comes with many challenges. But, we should continue to take action and engage researchers, communities, parents and educators in finding beneficial practices and strategies that foster high-quality literacy efforts with all children; especially those who are marginalized. However, it is important to consider other research and tools that promote opportunities for increasing literacy gaps in marginalized communities of children. Wasik and Hindman (2015) identify "several principles" (p. 51) to move the line of demarcation of literacy gaps and move the trajectory of strategies. By sharing the responsibility of educating early leaners who do not have opportunities to grow their vocabulary by 30 million words, and becoming accountable in our efforts for changing the future of every child's educational prospects, we can reverse the statistics permanently for children of color.


    Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. American Educator, 27(1), 4-9.

    Wasik, B., & Hindman, A. (2015). Talk alone won't close the 30-million word gap. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(6), 50-54.

    Tara Voit
    Doctoral Fellow, Department of Early Childhood Education
    East Tennessee State University
    Johnson City, TN

  • 8.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 05-02-2017 12:42 PM
    Expectations for children are one important factor in determining a child's success.  We have to believe that they can, then teach to their abilities.  Boys "of color" may not be expected to succeed in science and math - or reading either!  Girls of color have different strikes against them. They may be expected to succeed in reading, but females of any color are often not expected to succeed in the sciences and math.  Sometimes parents of children "of color" do not believe that they can trust teachers who are not "of color" and expect discrimination, either blatant or unconscious.  Although there is good basis in evidence for those feelings, sadly it works both ways and always to the detriment of children.

    Sylvia Ashton-Warner was a gifted teacher of Maori children in New Zealand in the 1940's.  In her book Teacher she describes her thought process and her methods for teaching children who had been considered "unteachable."  We can learn a lot from her work.

    The book (and movie) Hidden Figures addresses this issue and gives dramatic evidence of black females excelling in both math and science.  There is one telling incident in the story when Katherine Johnson, a new hire, is faced with the difficult decision to think that a white male who left his desk nearby as she settled in might have been making a racist statement, OR might simply have finished his work.  She chose to think the latter and, whether she was right or wrong, her decision cleared the way for them later to become good friends.

    Gay Macdonald
    Los Angeles CA

  • 9.  RE: Why is the achievement gap for children of color so persistent?

    Posted 05-03-2017 01:19 PM
    After attending an early education symposium featuring Walter Gilliam and his research on implicit bias in preschool. I was instantly brought to tears. It is NOT that children of color cannot learn but something else may be happening.

    Dr. Gilliam shared 2 points that I thought were profound.
    1. He stated that the Perry Preschool Project carried out from 1962-1967 in disadvantaged communities to measure specific outcomes benefited a vast majority of children. However, over the years, children in preschool programs, specifically black boys, are being expelled and suspended at a greater rate than any other group. Expulsion and suspension means that children do not benefit from the very program that is designed to offer opportunities for achievement.
    2. He also stated that, "suspensions and expulsions are NOT the result of a child's behavior but the result of the teacher's decision."

    But I must ask, what is the elephant in the room? Why the persistent gap in achievement? When implicit bias is introduced into the equation, it changes the conversation. Implicit bias reflects the attitudes and belief one endorses at an unconscious level. EVERYONE has implicit biases. However, when a decision is made and carried out, as a result, someone's life and lively hood could be affected. In other words, beliefs become judgments, judgments become decisions, decisions become policies, policies become bills and eventually bills become laws.

    In the seventies, I attended Virginia Union University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Richmond, VA and received a profound education. V.U.U professors had a vested interest and commitment in my academic achievement. The teachers had talked the talk and walked the walk. They had lived through experiences that I had read in history books. EVERY class I attended yielded lectures, history lessons, stories of triumph and tragedies that enveloped me in cultural pride and self-realization. Can this experience be duplicated in preschool programs? The classroom would reflect the children in the community. Lots of books would feature children of color as the main character and the hero of the story. The curriculum would be relevant to them and their needs. I suggest reading "Cultivating the genius of the black child" by Debra Ren-Etta Sullivan.  Just the photo of Ms. Sullivan's grandchild on the cover would bring a smile to your face.

    At the end of the Dr. Gilliam's presentation, I posed this question:
    This study was conducted in 2005, which was 12 years ago, and the children in the study were 4 and 5 years old. Has there been a study that followed their academic career? The response was, "no study was conducted". Dr. Gilliam is a very committed and strong advocate for children.

    Here is Dr. Gilliam's study:

    Petrea Hicks M.Ed.
    ECE Consultant
    XYZ...the end result! LLC
    Gaithersburg MD