There are many factors that go into the reason why there is an achievement gap. Some of the factors are family life, socio economic, teacher involvement with students, behavioral issues, education being secondary to making money and how people focus on short term goals of being paid versus investment on the future. The achievement gap in education is defined as the disparity amongst different groups of students within education (The New Rules).
This can be measured by grades, standardized- test scores, dropout rates and college graduation rates. It is also shown African Americans and Hispanic students academically perform lower than non-Hispanic white students according to “The New Rules”. There is also a disparity between low income and people that are more well off. These multiple factors create a division in our education system.
According to “The Achievement Gap, a Look into Causes” written in The Harvard Gazette the first three years of a child’s life are significant. During this time the brain is developing, and the more words children hear and see the smarter they become. During a language acquisition, it is shown that by the age of three children born to professionals have vocabularies of 1,100 words versus those families on welfare that only have a vocabulary of 525 by the age of three.
There was also a significant difference in the IQ scores from both groups with the three-year-old coming from a professional family being at 117 and the child coming from a family on welfare being at 79. Middle class working families also referred to as concerted cultivation according to The Harvard Gazette engage with their children as equals in conversation rather than speaking to them in baby talk. This is shown to create a self confidence in the child which is reflected in the classroom. Working middle class families are also known to consider life as continues educational opportunities versus poorer families that do not according to Susan Ansell in “The Achievement Gap.”
The influence of family life on the achievement gap is huge. Some of the influences under family life would be family education, family income, parents’ criminal activity and family structure according to Anna J Egalie in “How Family Background Influences Student Achievement.” Parents’ have such a huge influence on their child’s future especially when it comes to education.
In most studies conducted it is shown that the parents education is the single strongest factor that correlates with their child’s educational success according to Anna J Egalie in “How Family Background Influences Student Achievements.” The reason I say this is because we only value our education as much as our parents felt it was important. If you were raised with parents that didn’t see education as important then you most likely didn’t focus on your education. So, it’s not because you couldn’t do it, it’s because the individual chose not to even put for 100%.
There are also working families where both mom and dad must work, and the child is placed in day care or with family and they do not have the same experience as a child with a stay at home parent. Educated parents are also look for quality schools for their child’s education and what neighborhood to move to. During the school year they are very involved with school events such as parent conferences and staying in touch with teachers. Parents that are more involved in their child’s education impacts the value of education shown through their child’s actions.
The influence of money also has a direct impact on the achievement gap. The reason for this is because communities with greater financial resources have a correlation with higher quality schools (The Achievement Gap). Schools with more money have more resources to offer extracurricular activities at the school and within the community itself. The experience the child receives is proven to promote brain development (edweek.org).
With that being said it is pretty significant the impact money has on a child’s education. When a parent is not able to help their child with homework or afford summer camp or have time to take them to museum it impacts the child’s learning ability. When parents have to work multiple jobs just to financially make ends meet its hard to find time to invest back into their child. The lack of investment can be seen as a lack of brain development (The Achievement Gap).
Whereas a family that is well off can afford to have one parent stay at home and invest in all these extracurricular activities that are shows to promote brain development. The impact of money goes beyond just family impact. It also impacts schools because in communities with financial burdens may not be able to have as many classes which higher the ration of child to student. School may also need to create combination classes which impacts the learning curve for those students. The school itself may not attract quality teachers as well due to budget and potential loss of income with teaching at a school that is experiencing financial burdens. Research shows that children in smaller classes achieve a higher success rate according to “Does Money Matter in Education” by Bruce D. Baker.
According to an analysis completed by James Coleman cited as “Equality of Educational Opportunities” the correlation between quality teachers and successful student out comes were a directly result of the teacher. Research shows that teachers that attend better colleges or score higher on standardized tests produce higher achievement rates with their students according to Lauren M. Desimone in “Teach Effects and the Achievement Gap: Do Teacher and Teaching Quality Influence the Achievement Gap Between Black and White and High- and Low- SES Students in Early Grades.” This is measured through standardized tests that are given to students. The results of those tests are a clear indicator that low-income communities are prone to receiving weaker teachers at their schools. This just reinforces how hard it is for one that is low income to receive a quality education like those that come from higher income.
The achievement gap is also impacted by how people value money over success. In some household’s success is distinguished by how much money one has. So, if a person can make more money working longer hours instead of focusing on their school success they will most likely start slacking (Bühler, 64). It doesn’t matter what kind of student you are if you are not focused or are too overwhelmed it will show through in their academics (Timar, 89-92). Sometimes though students get jobs in high school to help their parents alleviate some of the financial burden in their household.
It’s hard to see your parents struggle and just sit there and do nothing. That is one of the reasons why they may get a job. Then in a sense once you learn the value of money you put that above the success you receive in the classroom because it’s doesn’t feel as good as the money you make. Parents need to make sure there is a balance between their children helping them financially and still prioritizing their studies. Unfortunately, this is really only seen in lower economic households. In upper class homes working is an option not necessary to survive.
The achievement gap varies too depending on the grade the child is in. It seems as though the gap gets bigger once students enter high school (Bühler, 66). While they are in elementary school going up in grade the gap gets larger and larger. This may be because students get discouraged or are looked at and treated as failures so there is a lack of focus. By middle school smarter children are already identified and placed into honors classes. This may make other students feel like they aren’t good enough which causes them to do worst in school.
While Lyndon Johnson was President in 1965 he implemented The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This was implemented to offer federal funds to help aide K-12 schools that are financially struggling. After time though the need for something more and while George W. Bush was President in 2001 he established The No Child Left Behind Act (edweek.org). This was put into effect in 2002. This act was put into place to help increase school funding for lower income schools to help raise the achievement rate.
This measure would hold more schools accountable for the student’s success. This required schools to implement yearly testing in order to receive this funding (Timar, 122-125). The standardized tests are one of our strongest measurements now a day to understand the achievement gap (edweek.org). This act also ensures that schools only higher highly qualified teachers. The foundation of this act was put in place to try and lessen the achievement gap we had at that time. This was measured yearly by the school’s annual yearly progress also known as AYP.
The achievement gap we have will probably never resolve. The reason I say that is because there are too many factors that go into the gap that if just one thing isn’t aligned to hopes of closing it will never happen. We cannot control everything around us nor can we control some of the situations we are put in as parents and students. All we can do is make the best of the situations we are in and that are kids are in and do our best to ensure they are not a statistic. We need to push our children and ourselves to always give a 100 % because if we don’t then the statistics we see are false. Prove someone wrong and show them you are not who they assume you are.