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  • 1.  Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-08-2017 04:49 PM
    Some people say that calling the difference in test scores among children of different races and ethnicities an achievement gap blames the victims, the children. What's really happening, they say, is that poverty, racism, punitive public and school policies, etc. have created an opportunity gap that works against what should be a positive learning environment for each child. This causes some people to ask: "Does it really matter what we call it as long as we fix it?"

    Maurice Sykes
    Early Childhood Leadership Institute @ UDC
    Washington DC

  • 2.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-09-2017 03:36 PM
    I believe that words do matter. Words shape our conceptualization, how we define issues. They can either open up our thinking about solutions or close it off. So, here's my dilemma. What wording helps people more immediately know what we're talking about. People understand "achievement gap". My stomach churns, however, when the definition is limited to test scores. There's so much more to success in school than test scores. There are so many missed opportunities.

    Kyra Ostendorf
    Minneapolis, MN

  • 3.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-10-2017 05:45 AM
    In early childhood, we have started calling the gap, the opportunity gap as it does a much better job of stating our concern. Achievement gap has become a phrase that is linked to test scores.

    Susan Harman
    Denton MD

  • 4.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-12-2017 06:57 AM
    Well put!

    Karin King
    Trumbull CT

  • 5.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-10-2017 09:42 AM
    What the difference in test scores shows is that some groups of students do better at taking written standardized, mainly multiple choice with some short answer, tests in a designated time period. Therefore saying there is an "achievement gap" is a misnomer - it has nothing to do with achievement. Written, standardized tests simply do not measure achievement.

    As an example: A number of years ago, as a Visiting Professor, I taught a Child Development course to undergraduate students who were majoring in Education. For the final exam/project I told the students that I wanted to assess if they had learned the material over the course of the semester. I gave them the choice of how they wanted to be assessed. (They could write a paper, develop an exam, make a video, write a story or poem or play, choreograph a dance, meet with me for a discussion, or any other method of their choosing.)

    One of my students, who was majoring in Physical Education, chose to come meet with me for a discussion. I had noticed over the course of the semester that he had difficulty with most of the written assignments, including the multiple choice questions assigned with each chapter. He participated fairly often in class and his comments were typically thoughtful and insightful. Needless to say we had a rich discussion during his "final" and he showed a deep understanding of the material, better than the majority of students in the class.

    The sad part was he ended up dropping out of Education. Most of his teachers had discouraged him because he couldn't pass their (dare I say antiquated) methods for assessing his learning. He would have made an incredible PE teacher!

    Words do matter. But by being concerned about the terminology used to describe the difference in test scores we are implicitly agreeing that there is an "achievement gap."  I would argue that if we were to be as diverse in our methods of assessment as our students are then we would find the difference in achievement would be a whole lot smaller than we think.

    Deborah Abelman
    Watertown MA

  • 6.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-10-2017 10:01 PM
    Call it evidence of the shortcomings of standardized testing, and proof of the need for deep commitments to ECE.

    Scott Mitchell
    Takoma Park MD

  • 7.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-10-2017 08:55 AM
    Hi Maurice,

    Thanks for posing this question and starting this conversation.  I think the way we talk about, or frame the problem, often reflects how we are thinking about the problem's root causes.  For example, to borrow a metaphor from Dr. Camara Jones in the field of public health, if some of the flowers in my garden (the red ones) were growing tall and strong, and some were not (the pink ones), I think calling the disparity in their growth an "achievement gap" might accidentally imply that the root cause of the problem was something that was wrong with those pink flowers that needed remediation.  While in fact, we're failing to recognize that the red flowers were planted in rich fertile soil and the pink flowers were planted in poor rocky soil.

    So I guess I'm fine using the term, the "achievement gap" as long as we're on the same page in terms of how we understand the root causes of the problem.  As Ta-Nehisi Coates says so clearly, "There's nothing wrong with black people that the complete destruction of white supremacy would not fix. Nothing."  In other words, I think the most important thing is that we need to be clear that when we're talking about that gap, we're not talking about a problem with the flowers, we're talking about a problem with the soil.  Because if we're on the same page about root causes, we can work together to dismantle them!  Dismantling institutional racism in early childhood education and in our society more broadly is going to take lots of us working together.

    Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings suggests the Education Debt as an alternative frame.  You can hear her lecture here.



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

  • 8.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-12-2017 07:03 AM
    We have friend's whose children attended a magnet elementary school in their city. The school was comprised of children from all the different neighborhoods. It was (this was years ago so I'm not sure if it is still around) based on the Bank Street School. ALL parents were REQUIRED to participate several times a year....Our friends told us that it was one of the highlights of raising their kids! They (the parents) also made new friends and were (in a sneaky way LOL) educated about all the issues that ALL different parental situations face plus the ability to brainstorm together as parents over the snack table.

    Too bad this philosophy is not adopted by all public schools...I'll bet there would be more parents willing to participate than one might think...

    Karin King
    Trumbull CT

  • 9.  RE: Does it matter what we call the the "achievement gap?"

    Posted 05-16-2017 01:19 PM
    In my opinion, it does matter how we definite "achievement gap".   United States has an interesting way to measure student achievement. As an ECE educator, I truly believe that student achievement or I would even dare to say "overall or holistic" success is what is truly need to be measured.  I completely understand that its not "easy" to measure student socio-emotional domain, yet, in my opinion, that is one of the most important type of assessment that US needs to invest in, especially in ECE profession. United States also needs to "accept" their own diverse student body as well as "accept" that different cultures, languages, ideas/perspectives needs to be taken into consideration when our educational system assesses "student achievement".  I was fortunate enough to attend some great sessions at NAEYC/OAEYC that discussed how ECE professionals would benefit from understanding neurological science & research in order to meet diverse needs of our student population. I still have to ask... as a country, have "we" effectively defined "achievement gap"?

    Ankit Shah
    Educational Academy for Boys and Girls
    Columbus OH