Closing the Gap (by Maria Rodriguez, 11946)

Introduction

MariapicWhen you first approach the school, it doesn’t look very inviting. But why judge a book by its cover? Some of the best books have covers that are misleading. As soon as you set foot inside the school, you can instantly feel and see the dedication this school gives to its students. The first day of school is my favorite because the school and staff really go all out to show the kids that they are welcomed and are incredibly special. The front of the school has a long red carpet that starts at the front door and ends at the carpool lane. On both sides of the carpet, there are the teachers and helpers of the school just cheering on the kids as they begin the new school year. That first day feeling actually lasts throughout the school year for these kids, every day they are reminded just how great they are and that there are several people who are there to help them in any way possible. When I think back to the first time I had volunteered, I could tell by the expression on the kids’ faces that they don’t see volunteers very often. As an older sibling, I know how important it is to be a role model for these kids and show them that there are even complete strangers who want to help them succeed.

When I had decided to go into education for my community theme, I had no idea what sort of issues is found in the area of education. As I’ve been volunteering at Echo Shaw since my senior year of high school, I though that the worst issue was that there wasn’t nearly enough volunteers. But as I’ve been asking my aunt, who has been working in education for about a decade, about the issues, she had continually told me about the achievement gap. My question that I became most interested in was; how can the achievement gap be closed?

Before I get too into detail about how to close the achievement gap, I’d like to briefly explain what exactly the achievement gap is. The achievement gap is the constant gap of achievement between students who are at some sort of disadvantage, who also belong to a minority group, and those who belong to the majority group. As someone who has only recently became part in education, you’re probably wondering what an 18 year old could possibly know about the achievement gap and why I care.

As I was growing up, I was just like all the kids but there was one thing that was different. My elementary school quickly became more of a second home to me, this was because my aunt has been working at my elementary school since I was in the second grade. After school I would most often be found right by her side, whether that was at meetings or whenever she had after school clubs. Since I had always been around the teachers, I heard all about their strategies to try and close, if not shrink, this achievement gap. But now that I’ve grown up a bit more, I am able to do so much more than just sit around and listen to them speak about making a change now I can take part of making the change. I could help spread awareness and I could even tell others how they can help make this difference as well.

Clearly this issue is a nationwide issue, finding the articles and information to my question was not a hard task. But the first one I had found really stood out to me because it had not only answered my question, it also gave some of the most valuable information. They had spoken about the attempts that had been made towards closing the gaps and the solutions that have been though of since the 1960s. They had tried several solutions which was broken into four different categories; Preschool reform, teacher reforms, instructional reforms and standards-based reforms. This article had also had done something that most people don’t shed light on; Porter had spoken about why the achievement gap is so important and why it needs the attention of everyone. If you would like to read more into detail the article is located here http://www.gse.upenn.edu/node/269 , it also answers most of the questions that people might have when they are first introduced to the achievement gap.

The Research

Porter, Andy. “GSE News.” Rethinking the Achievement Gap. GSE News, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

Another article that I had found spoke about what it will take to close this gap. It breaks down how the gap could be closed into four lessons of understanding the most crucial parts needed to close this gap. The four lessons are; how important standards are, how each student must have a challenging curriculum, students must have a challenging curriculum, students need extra help and that teachers matter more than they could ever understand. When I read this article, what really stuck out to me the most was

“Clear and public standards for what students should learn at benchmark grade levels are a crucial part of solving the problem. They are a guide, for teachers, administrators, parents, and students themselves – to what knowledge and skills students must master”. (Haycock). This is the biggest step that could overtime close this gap, this is what should be taken into account when trying to find the solutions. Several of those who don’t understand the severity of this gap are often the ones who also teach the same exact lessons to these students expecting the highest achievements from each of them without giving the extra help.

The last article had a lot of valuable information but mostly spoke about why we should support all children and how it could help eliminate this gap. Walsh had given the information that “student support can be approached differently, in a way that dramatically enhances its effectiveness”. (Walsh) She had also gone on to break down the different characteristics of student support that could be easy enough for anyone to offer;

“1. Customize to the unique strengths, needs and interests of each student.

  1. Comprehensive, serving the academic, social/emotional/behavioral, health, and family needs of all students from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds
  2. Coordinated among families, schools, and community agencies;
  3. Cost-effective to school by leveraging the resources provided by community agencies.
  4. Continuously monitored for effectiveness through collecting and analyzing data to evaluate its effectiveness and improve service; and
  5. Implemented in all sites with fidelity and oversight”. (Walsh).

What could be taken away from these articles is the fact that although just the word ‘ achievement gap’ alone is intimidating, its easy to take the steps to get it to close. Anyone could help these kids beat the odds of becoming merely another statistic that makes us the achievement gap.

How to Get Involved

  • An easy step to get involved is as easy as becoming a volunteer! Although each volunteer program, at least that im aware of, requires a waiting period of two days just so they can run a formal background check. The application can be found on any school district website and from there you are able to choose which school(s) you wish to volunteer at!
  • Another great organization to join to help fight this issue, is the Boys & Girls Club. This organization also has been known to offer a scholarships to a few of the kids they have helped and they meet after school! This is a serious issue that effects the lives of so many, help join the fight to find the solution.

Works Cited

Haycock, Kati. “Membership.” Educational Leadership:Helping All Students Achieve:Closing the Achievement Gap. Educational Leadership, Mar. 2001. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar01/vol58/num06/Closing-the-Achievement-Gap.aspx

Porter, Andy. “GSE News.” Rethinking the Achievement Gap. GSE News, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

http://www.gse.upenn.edu/node/269

Walsh, Mary E. “Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap.” Whole Child Education. The Whole Child, 10 June 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

http://www.wholechildeducation.org/blog/support-all-students-to-close-the-achievement-gap

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Emily Wickwire

    Maria,
    First off you did an awesome job, as I was reading it, I could really relate and connect with your writing, which really kept me interested throughout the piece! I actually loved the beginning, I thought the “never judge a book by its cover” was a great way to start off the piece! I also really enjoyed the personal connection you had with the school system, with your aunt being a teacher so you were also around the environment, and this is a cool but unfortunate thing, when you were at such a young age, you experienced other teachers trying to solve the problem for the achievement gap. That is so cool you have such a good understanding of it and the unfortunate part is, that it is still an huge issue still.

    Another thing I really enjoyed was the ideas you had on how to get involved. I myself have been in the boys and girls club growing up well it wasn’t called that at the time but it was a great place for me. One thing I would say to work on would be, revising it one more time. I found some grammar/ spelling errors but besides that I thought you used great vocabulary that really kept me as a reader interested throughout your piece, along with it had a great flow to it.

  2. Terina Munar

    Hi Maria, I would have never thought an education topic would be so intriguing and eye opening. I typically have no opinions about education except that teachers are usually underpaid. With my 5 year old daughter entering the public school system this fall, I have forced myself to pay more attention to what is going on.
    I think your essay is very well written. It is organized, to the point and gives just enough facts without overloading the reader. I even thought to myself while reading it, “I should sign up to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club. I know right where it is.” Right there is proof that your essay is capable of touching its’ audience and get them thinking of how they can get involved with their community.
    Although I do not know very much about the achievement gaps, it sounds as if it has be an issue in the education system for a long time (40-50 years). I agree with Porter, that it needs the attention of everyone.
    Thank you for including your personal background to the issue as well. I also think it was a great idea to include what the achievement gap was. Very helpful information. Great job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: