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November 18, 2008

Opportunity vs. Achievement Gap

One of the biggest challenges to fixing the problems with educational system is figuring out what the root problem is. It seems to me that there are a variety of issues, such as a more subtle form of superiority, lack of funding, etc. that are compounded by each other. If you solve one problem, you create or make another one worse. It seems that all of the issues are interconnected, and therefore, we cannot find a simple solution. Instead, I think that we have to make changes a little bit at a time. The first aspect that we need to focus on is not the achievement gap, as NCLB does, but on the opportunity gap.

The achievement gap, as defined by my colleagues in my education 118 class, is the difference in testing scores of students across the country on standardized tests. The opportunity gap, also defined by my education class, is the inequity in access to resources. For example, lower socioeconomic students are not able to afford to go to private school, so they are stuck going to the public school, even if the quality of the education is horrible. Another problem associated with the opportunity gap is that the school district is a reflection of the community within. Therefore, if you live in a poor neighborhood, chances are the school system will not have sufficient funds. Without money, schools cannot hire the most qualified, sought-after teachers, do not have access to technology, such as Smart Boards in the classroom, and do not have the resources necessary for those students who need extra assistance. Many times, minorities are in the lower socioeconomic brackets and do not have access to an adequate education. They then cannot compete in high schools, colleges, and the workplace, so they become stuck in a cycle and cannot get out.

A major issue in regards to No Child Left Behind is that the act focuses on this achievement gap. Under the act, every action is determined by test scores. Therefore, we place more pressure on parents and teachers to perform well on these standardized tests, punishing them if they do not perform up to par. However, there are some problematic implications of this type of situation, as stated in “The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing” on http://www.fairtest.org/facts/Dangerous%20Consequences.html, “high-stakes testing leads to increased grade retention and dropping out,…misinforms the public,…[and] drives out good teachers” (FairTest.com 1).** What does not make sense to me is that many times, the schools that do not meet the standards each year do not have enough funds to do so. We are just furthering the problem by taking away more funds. This type of system seems to add too much pressure and actually decreases the quality of education because teachers do not actually instruct students in how to understand the material beyond taking the standardized test.

Thanks for reading!

Cartoon courtesy of http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/mbc/lowres/mbcn732l.jpg.

** Quote taken from “The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing” from http://www.fairtest.org/facts/Dangerous%20Consequences.html on November 18, 2008.

Posted by ksackett at November 18, 2008 06:58 PM

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